It’s Refugee Week in Australia. The overall aim of which, according to the Refugee Council Of Australia website, is to “raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society”.
Timely, given recent events off the coast.
The theme of Refugee Week for 2012-14 is ‘restoring hope’. And I’ve been wondering whether there’s any distinctively Christian contribution to be made along any of the three axes specified by the Refugee Council:
- A recognition that refugees’ journeys begin not simply with danger, fear and trauma but also with hope.
- An invitation to communities offering hospitality to refugees to view their work in a positive sense — they’re restoring hope to people.
- And a challenge to face up to the hope-threatening ‘permanently temporary’ situation many refugees are forced to inhabit.
My mind’s been travelling more and more along the third axis — particularly as I’ve mulled over 1 Peter in the lead up to preaching on it.
I’m totally convinced that 1 Peter is the most important New Testament letter for Western Christians to come to grips with — especially as the tide of Christendom continues to retreat.
What I especially appreciate about 1 Peter is its refusal to allow Christians to lose sight of the theological (as opposed to sociological) reality of our status as ‘displaced persons’ — profoundly out of joint with our context, no matter what society we find ourselves in.
So if we take 1 Peter seriously then Christians should have some intrinsic sympathy for the vulnerability, marginalisation, insecurity and embattled experience of actual refugees.
We should expect to be familiar with not belonging. And we should know what it’s like to be looked at askance or subjected to hostile questioning — even legal sanctions.
More than this, 1 Peter teaches Christians that we should have something to share and contribute on the basis of the ‘living hope’ the resurrection of Jesus ushers us into.
The gift of lasting stability — not only a secure inheritance beyond the reach of rust and corrosion, but also a rock-solid confidence that God himself travels with and protects us on the journey.
The ultimate belonging — to an eternal family bound to one another in genuine from-the-heart love.
The astonish privilege and purpose — graciously qualified to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through the Messiah, Jesus, as we declare the glories of our Rescuer.
All of these 1 Peter holds before us — a dazzling kaleidoscope of hope. With massive restorative potential!