Live Like a Refugee

One of the most fascinating events within the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games is called the “Parade of Nations.” Each nation participating in the Olympic games is introduced and the representatives of that nation walk in, usually wearing an outfit that is representative of that nation in some way or another. Nations that are walking in the Parade for the first time are given special fanfare and recognition for the accomplishment. This year was no different, as Kosovo and South Sudan were recognized as newcomers to the Olympic Games. There was one group, however, that should bring something to the mind of the Christian something hopefully very familiar.

For the first time, a group of refugee athletes was introduced to the world and recognized as athletes without a country. They bore the Olympic flag instead of the flag of any one nation. If any of these athletes should win a medal and require a national anthem to be played, the Olympic Anthem shall be played in its place.  Their attire did not bear the distinguishing characteristics of the nation they were refugees from. They were the representatives of nearly 65 million people who due to war or persecution have fled or been ejected from their home country. The 10 athletes were of very different backgrounds from around the world, but united in a way that depended not on birth, race, or native language. The one unifying characteristic was they did not belong to any country.

Hopefully the reader can understand why this unusual event gives us a little perspective. We as Christians are called to do this very thing, to be sojourners and refugees from the rest of the world. Abraham was promised His offspring would be sojourners in the land of Egypt for 400 years (Gen. 15.13). Peter writes by inspiration in 1 Peter 2.10-11: “10Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

We as followers of God and temporary dwellers upon this earth are called upon by God to be pilgrims, sojourners, refugees without a home to call for our own. We often sing “This world is not our home, I’m just a passing thru…” Once, we were condemned before God and unable to change our status before others. God sent His Son, paid our sin debt and ransomed us from death, making us a new nation, a holy priesthood, a people unto Himself as He made the Israelites of old. We walk under a new standard, the name of Jesus. We walk with new outfits, with robes purified by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7.14). Our national anthem? Perhaps the new song of Revelation 14, where in v.3 we read that “no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”

May we learn to walk together as these 10 athletes did in Rio. They were in the overwhelming minority in that vast throng of athletes from every nation on earth. These athletes will compete and strive for the physical rewards that are temporary and passing, while we compete for the reward that is imperishable (1 Cor. 9.25). One more noticeable difference between our march and theirs is the reception. These 10 athletes were celebrated and cheered as they entered the stadium by all of the other nations surrounding them. We, on the other hand, will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3.12) and hated (1 John 3.13), just as our Lord and Savior was (John 15.18). We as Christians often claim that we are refugees. Will we live like refugees?