After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”—Mathew 2:13-15 NLT
During my years as an expatriate living in a certain place, several national leaders fled the country to avoid imprisonment. Once when I lamented the leaving of one of them, a friend said to me, “Don’t worry about him. In our country you can’t rise to the presidency unless you have first suffered political exile.” The status of exile can serve as proof of the dramatic patriotism that maximum leadership demands.
Nevertheless, political exile constitutes a grave offense against human rights. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference.” That fortress of liberty also states that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution (Article 14).”
As the Roman Catholic document “Exsul Familia Nazarethana” says:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.
According to Mathew 25:40, when we serve such people, we minister to Jesus in the same way.
The exile to Egypt did not represent the first time Jesus would abandon his rights for our wellbeing. Before emptying himself of his human rights, Jesus had put aside his divine rights by taking human form (Philippians 2:7). And the flight to Egypt wasn’t the last time he would suspend his human rights for us, but rather the first instance in a long series of ironies. In the end, his exile from Heaven and the sacrifice of his human rights made possible the inexorable day of his coronation as King for life over all humanity. And his life and reign will be eternal.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. All Rights Reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.