Unknown things are scary. I think that's just a universal truth. That's why we can have so much fear about things that are different from us. I think that's a contributing factor to the fear surrounding Syrian refugees. But Jesus has a lot to say about that. How we should respond to those who are different?
Probably Jesus clearest teaching on the subject was in the form of the story. A parable. One we often call the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the story in response to a nice Jewish man who asks Him, “Who is my neighbour?” What Jesus describes in the story pushes every rational boundary of who we call our neighbour.
You see in the story, a nice Jewish has been robbed and left for dead. It's when were in this state that we can best tell who our friends are. But in Jesus story, the friends (the neighbours) of the men are not the ones who are like him. Both a priest and a Levite purposely cross the road to avoid the man. So who helps? A Samaritan. Now, if you've ever heard this story taught, you know that the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. The Samaritans were racially impure, they were different from the Jews. They were heretics, they believed different things. Samaritans and Jews weren’t just different, they hated each other. No Jew owed Samaritan anything – and the opposite was true as well. And yet, it's the Samaritan who helps.
But he didn't just help - he risked. You see the man was laying bloodied on the side of very dangerous road. The two Jews who saw him were very to not help. There were only two options as this man bleeding out on the side of the road. Either he was dead and they risked becoming ceremonially unclean by touching a dead body OR if he was still alive, his attackers were very likely still close by and any helpers would be putting their own safety at risk.
But despite these dangers the Samaritan - a man from a different country, with a different religion, who owed the man nothing - risked his life to not only save the man, but make sure that he was nursed back to health. He put him on his donkey and carried him to the village. He pledge to pay for his ongoing care.
So what do we learn from this? Well first, Jesus teaches us that neighbouring is not restricted by danger or by difference. Our call to be good neighbours extends to people who are much different from us and to situations where we are put at risk. These are not acceptable excuses.
But there is something much more in the story. We note that the man who was attacked was a good Jewish man. Much similar, in fact, to the man the story is being told to. It is not a Samaritan bleeding out on the road, but one like us. And it is not us on the donkey who is called to help, but rather one who is much different from us - one who does not owe us anything. We are not merely given an example, we are shown a Saviour.
On this side of Calvary we see the depth of this parable. For we lay dying. And a man who owed us nothing – a man from a different country, of a different character - not only risked his life, but willingly gave it up. Not only to save us, but to bring us into His family and to give us what was rightfully only His. And we were not only refugees, but in fact the enemies of God when Christ came to save us. “For while we were yet gods we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” And, because Jesus has laid His life down to bring us into His Kingdom, the command of Jesus at the end of His parable is ever true for us, "Go and do likewise".