The seasonal shift is upon us: kids are going back to school; fall planning and projects have begun; and the weather is about to change. It’s easy to look back at the summer and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.

Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.

But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change? That effort begins with reflecting on God's character.

God's Character: A Reminder for Times of Regret

Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.

We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and surely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses; he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:

“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).

Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:

“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).

Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. God wants to change the world through your life (John 17).

Turning Regret into Advocacy

The new seasons of life bring with them new opportunities. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a new season helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?

We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside those in need. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.

We can turn our regret into advocacy. In the process, we may find that the next seasonal transition is marked by far less regret because our lives are too filled by doing good for the self-pity to reign.

Our God hears our cries and hears the cries of the hurting. The Exodus story proves that. What can you do this coming season to walk alongside those who desperately need an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this season to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.

Here is the season. Embrace it. Don't live in the past. Think of what you can do in the future. May God renew you. May he turn your regrets into advocacy.*

 

Become an Advocate Right Now

Join us in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. Or partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.

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*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "A New Year Renewed by God: Reflections on Exodus."

Fear drives many decisions. It leads us to make harsh decisions, based on stereotypes of whole people groups. Historically and of recent, fear has led people to bend the Bible to fit their own viewpoints.

At the core of the biblical text is a call to salvation, compassion, and equality. To characterize it any other way is to miss the entire point of the Scriptures we hold so dear and defend.

I have recently written on how Christians should respond to refugees and immigrants. Since that time, the comments I have received have made me realize that further clarity is needed.

The Bible is full of stories of refugees and immigrants. There are countless passages in defense of the helpless, weak, and marginalized; as well as many passages about how to treat an outsider.

Old Testament Refugees and Immigrants

Abraham the patriarch, was a refugee:

“And there was a famine in the land. And Abram went down to Egypt to dwell as an alien there, for the famine was severe in the land” (Genesis 12:10 LEB).

But Abraham is not the only one who is a refugee in the Old Testament. Abraham and his wife Sarah cause Hagar, Sarah’s servant and the mother of Ishmal, to become a refugee, when Sarah exiled Hagar out of anger (Genesis 16). Those once in need create injustice—as so often is the case with power.

Later in Genesis, ten of Abraham’s great-grandsons go to Egypt as refugees during a famine:

“When Jacob realized that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’ Then he said, ‘Look, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy grain for us there that we may live and not die’” (Genesis 42:1–2 LEB).

This moment leads to Jacob (Abraham’s grandson), and his entire family, moving to Egypt as immigrants. They are accepted into Egypt by Pharaoh himself (see Genesis 46:26–27; 47:1–12).

The Hebrew people eventually become slaves in the land of Egypt. This is the case when Moses comes on the scene. Moses himself becomes an outlaw and refugee in the land of Midian, after he murders an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave (southeast of Israel; Exodus 2:11–22).

And, as we all know, Moses and his brother Aaron—by the power of Yahweh—lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. Effectively, the entire people group become refugees with nowhere to go (Exodus 2:23–25; 15:22–27). This leads Yahweh himself to provide for them (Exodus 16). And one of the first things God does upon their rescue is to recognize that they must have laws to protect the immigrant, refugee, and powerless (Exodus 22:21–27).

Later in Israel’s history, once the Hebrew people are a nation with their own land, king David himself lives as an asylum-seeker on multiple occasions (e.g., 1 Samuel 21:10).

Trekking forward in Israel’s history, we find the prophet Elijah living as a refugee because he spoke truth to the king and was persecuted for it (1 Kings 17:3, 8–10).

And these are simply the stories of major Old Testament figures who were outcasts, asylum-seekers, immigrants, and refugees. There are also many stories of immigrants who needed protection and help—such as the mother of king David, Ruth, who was a Moabite who immigrated to Israel (see Ruth 1).

Jesus the Refugee

The most famous biblical example of a refugee is Jesus himself.

“Now after [the wise men] had gone away, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to seek the child to destroy him.’ So he got up and took the child and his mother during the night and went away to Egypt. And he was there until the death of Herod, in order that what was said by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:13–15 LEB).

After Jesus’ birth, king Herod sought to kill Jesus (Matthew 2). As a result, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary had to flee to Egypt as refugees. To clarify an error I have seen recently: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census before going to Egypt (Luke 2:1–7). Jesus did not travel to Egypt to register for the census; he went there as a refugee (compare Matthew 1:25–2:1).

How Jesus Judged Real Christianity

It seems that in the midst of so much modern debate about policy and politics, we have lost sight of one vital part of the Christian message—compassion. I have even heard many people argue that we cannot judge how a real Christian should respond to the global refugee crisis.

To answer this question, we can simply look to Jesus’ own words. When speaking about his final judgment, upon his second coming, Jesus says this to those who understood and received his message:

“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we [do these things]?’ And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’” (Matthews 25:34–40 LEB).

It is in the welcoming of the stranger, helpless, marginalized, and those in need that Jesus recognizes a true Christian from one who is not (Matthew 25:31–46).

In worries about security, many people have become apathetic to the suffering of the helpless. When empathy fails us, what we hold so dear—freedom itself—will also fail. The very nature of what we call Christianity will fail.

Out of a desire to protect ourselves, we often turn a blind eye to the suffering of other people. But in the process of doing so, we’re hurting humanity. We’re hurting freedom and we’re hindering the work of the gospel.

 

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Related Audio Content by John D. Barry

 

All of us in the United States arrived here as immigrants, refugees, or slaves. The only exception is Native Americans. This land was originally their land. For the immigrant, the U.S. was a land of hope. For the refugee, it was a place of asylum. The slave was unwillingly brought here. But we have all, together, made the United States our home.

My family, who were Irish, sought America as a place where they could make a new life. The exact details of what precisely brought them here are lost in the sands of time, only known through their folklore. But at the core of it, we know why they came—the American Dream.

Is the American dream any longer truly American, if it is not the hope for all people who seek a new life or refuge in this land? Even for those whose ancestors came here against their own will, the American dream became something worth fighting and dying for. Many African Americans fought in the Civil War, in the hope of becoming free. And many sought refuge in the North, to join the great fight for abolition—believing that Abraham Lincoln would honor his word.

There are all kinds of arguments about the history of America that can be made in favor of refugees and immigrants having a place here. But today I address Christians. And for you, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, I implore you to hear the words of the book you so rightfully claim as the bedrock of the great nation of America. I am not arguing today about policy or politics. Today, I am arguing about human dignity, based on the Scriptures we hold so dear.

Yahweh, our God, said to Israel—the same nation, so many are quick to protect:

“You will not mistreat an alien, and you will not oppress him, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21 LEB).

“And when an alien dwells with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The alien who is dwelling with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:33–34 LEB).

From the beginning of Israel as a nation, there is recognition of the pain of oppression. There are laws made to protect the asylum seeker (the sojourner) and the immigrant. Justice demands justice for all—not just for a select few. We cannot say, “We shall love this person this way, and that person another way.” Furthermore, the very reason why Americans have the right to cast a vote is because we were once allowed into this country, or we were incorporated into it.

The reality of what God demanded of Israel comes into full picture when we read the next lines of the same passage in Leviticus, which lays out laws about the refugee:

“You shall not commit injustice in regulation, in measurement, in weight, or volume. You must have honest balances, honest weights … I am Yahweh your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:35–36 LEB; compare Deuteronomy 25:13–16).

The proximity of this verse to the one about the refugee or immigrant cannot be ignored; the implication is that the refugee or immigrant is the very person who was most likely to be treated unjustly. Thus, God makes provision against this.

Let’s fast forward in time to the New Testament, to see how this same language is reflected. In 1 Peter 2:11, the language of sojourners and exiles is used to describe Christians. Peter uses refugees as a metaphor for all Christians. We are living in a world that no longer reflects God’s full justice and ideals. If we are to call ourselves Christian, we must recognize that there is no difference between us and the asylum seeker or immigrant.

The plight of humanity—the difficulties in our world—is shared between all people. This is the case no matter what our background is, income level, or race. We are equal before the eyes of God (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). We are all in desperate need of God’s justice in our world. It is the best thing for all of us.

I’m not making a case here that I have the answer to the precise policy that America should use. In fact, I’m not even arguing here about policy or politics. Instead, I’m making the argument that the biblical view of immigrants and refugees is simple—they’re like us, and we’re like them. Furthermore, the Bible is clear that we are to do something in favor of justice, always—and that we are to find a way for the person seeking asylum to have it. And finally, there must be room for the immigrant in the world to have the same rights as everyone else.

No matter how we welcome the refugee and immigrant—no matter how we choose precisely to be hospitable and loving—we must acknowledge that the Christian response is love.

 

Get more free articles like this one, our daily devotional, and updates: Subscribe now. This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”

Related Audio Content by John D. Barry

I had ran this trail dozens of times, but this time it was almost pitch black. As I leaned on my memory of the curves in the trail, I thought, “This is what it’s like to follow Jesus.”

When you set out on a faith journey, no one tells you how many times you will feel completely lost in the dark. I know this feeling deeply; I also know the God who has been there for me in the midst of it all.

My wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff, including our house, to dedicate ourselves full-time to creating jobs and churches for the impoverished and unreached. When you first set out on a journey like this, the whole thing sounds romantic; we’ve all wanted to start afresh. But the reality is not romantic: the journey is often more difficult than words can describe. This is where faith comes becomes reality—in the midst of the feelings of darkness and the ambiguity.

But what God has done in me through this journey is of immeasurable worth. Here are three faith principles God has taught me through this adventure.

1. Cherish the Ambiguity, Despite the Pain

If we fully understood all that God is doing, we wouldn’t be on a faith journey at all. It requires no faith to trust in what you can see and understand. God, in his infinite wisdom, is doing far more than we can anticipate. We cannot know God’s mind or understand his ways (compare 1 Corinthians 2:6–13). God has not been instructed by us, nor is he in need of our instruction.

“Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13–14 ESV; compare Romans 11:34).

We must learn to cherish the ambiguity, for it gives us ample reason to come before our God regularly. The truth of the matter is that we should come to him, simply because he is worthy of praise. But in our needs, we find even more reason to come before the throne of God. The ambiguity teaches us trust in his word.

2. Remind Yourself of God’s Words

Faith journeys begin with an understanding of who God is and what he is doing in our lives. When God calls us to a new adventure, it emerges out of his unique plan for our lives—and his collective plan for the betterment of all of creation (compare Romans 8:19–24). In the midst of the journey, though, it is easy to doubt. We doubt ourselves, our partners in ministry, and God’s plans. Sometimes, we even doubt God himself—or at least our understanding of him.

Pain gives us an opportunity: We can either give into the darkness of our world, or we can lean into our God. It’s a familiar phrase, but Psalm 23 describes this well:

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3–4 ESV).

It is for God’s namesake that he leads us—through the valleys, up the hills, and through the darkness into the light.

We must acknowledge that we don’t know where God is leading and trust him anyway. To do so, we must remember what he has originally revealed to us—through prayer, in discernment with other believers, and through the Bible. It’s important to count the promises of God and rehearse them regularly. We will learn to be in awe of him and through this we will learn wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:2). This will naturally lead us to praise him more (compare Psalm 104:24).

3. In the Darkness, Praise the Light of the World

When we feel broken, there is nothing more sweet to our spirit than to sing a song of praise. God stands with us in the darkness—he is the light (compare Psalm 4:6; 13:3). Let us sing praises like the Psalmist:

“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness” (Psalm 18:28 ESV).

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 ESV).

When we feel as if the path is clouded by the darkness, we must look to God like Israel did in the wilderness. God was a great fire in the darkness, leading Israel; he was physically in front of them as their beacon of hope (see Exodus 13:21).

God has already set a great light for humanity in his Son Jesus. Jesus once said:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV).

Jesus has lit our lives up with his light; he has renewed our hearts, restoring us out of the darkness of this world and into relationship with God the Father (compare John 1:4–9; 3:16–17).

Although darkness may feel like it surrounds our path, the reality is that we are not truly in the darkness. Instead, we have the light of Jesus. It just feels as if we walk in the dark.

The journey of faith is often ambiguous, but the God we serve is not. True light is already there for us in Jesus—we simply have to look ahead to him.

We may not know precisely where Jesus is leading us, but we must remember who he is. We must trust him to be the light in the darkness.

As we enter the New Year, it’s easy to look back at the last year and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.

Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.

But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change?

Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.

We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and likely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses—he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:

“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).

Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:

“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).

Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. He wants to change the world through your life (John 17).

The New Year brings with it the thought of new opportunity. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a New Year helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?

We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside the oppressed. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.

Our God hears the cries of the hurting. What can you do this coming year to walk alongside those who desperately in need of an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this year to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.

Here is the New Year. May God renew you. And may God renew our world. Let’s make this Jesus’ economy, based on self-sacrifice and love.

 

Want to get involved with helping the oppressed right now? Join Jesus’ Economy in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. You can also partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.