In January, 2016, my family and I were living in the country of South Africa. South Africa is a country desperately obsessed with the United States. Once President Trump was sworn into the Oval Office, his inaugural speech was about protecting America first.
Quickly after taking office, President Trump-led policies on immigration and new proposed laws started to become a reality, and, how much of the public eye interpreted it, Americans became increasingly xenophobic.
Xenophobia is the intense dislike or irrational fear of people from other countries.
South Africa at the time, like a younger sibling wanting to impress a big sibling, copy-catted America and became strict on immigration as well – except not through the courts or government – but in the streets.
South Africa is referred to as the Rainbow Nation because of her wide acceptance of all nations. But, with nationals wanting to put their country first too, with a thirst for violence what ensued where protests, physical violence, theft, rape and murder.
The college I was teaching at in the city of Durban, South Africa had a warm-hearted, bright student named Evic who was from the Republic of Congo. During this xenophobic rioting he was pulled out of a taxi cab and beaten by South African nationals, punched in his head multiple times to the point of a concussion and then left on the street.
As Americans, my wife and I were concerned for the safety of our daughters – who were the only immigrants at the school they attended. It’s brought a different perspective into my worldview about how a country treats foreigners.
Two years later after President Trump took office, immigration is still a sensitive, polarizing topic. I’m watching on social media my Christian friends, on both sides of the table, try to make the other side feel less-than with one-line jabs or links to articles proving how they are right.
What is the biblical response to immigration?
I don’t really care what the political or patriotic or personal response needs to be. What is a Christian’s directive, biblically, meaning, where does God want His people to stand when it comes to immigration?
Immigration is a far longer issue than what’s it’s become in the Western World today.
From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is about immigration. I wish we could take the time to write down every single historical person in the Bible and note how many of them where at one point an immigrant.
Here’s a few:
Abraham: God calls him to leave his home and to go to a different land. At the time, it was faith that moved Abraham and his family to a land he didn’t know, but he left everything behind to venture out. He becomes an example of trusting God when nothing else makes sense, especially the trials. As a foreigner.
Joseph: As a young man he becomes a victim of human-trafficking. After being sold into slavery by his own family, he forcibly crosses over geographic borders and spends 12 years in prison, eventually rising out of enslavement, out of misery, to become the 2nd most powerful person in the world at that time. As a foreigner.
Ruth: a widow from Moab, moves to a different land with her mother-in-law and gets employed gathering barley in the harvest fields. The ruler of this different nation notices Ruth, not because she’s from another nation, but because she has dignity and respect by the way she works diligently and loves others intently. As a foreigner.
Jesus: The greatest immigrant in the history of the world. Let’s go out for a drink and you can tell me why you think otherwise. Jesus grows to be a single, male Middle Eastern refugee. He checks every single box of someone Americans adamantly opposed to immigration don’t want to enter into “their” country.
Please don’t get excited about Christmas if you’re not praying for God’s will and care in this prevalent issue of immigration. How can we sing Christmas songs about a Savior who left heaven and came to earth and yet spew hatred or have fear toward the very people He came for?
I’m wondering if Jesus were born today, would Americans welcome Him into their borders (or, more specifically, would He be welcomed in the neighborhood or even in the church we attend?).
This isn’t about your opinion about the country’s policies or actions for/against immigration.
This is not about the frightening images or video footage on the news.
This is not about crimes committed by immigrants.
This isn’t even about whether someone loves their country or not.
This is about how you are right now with your neighbors who are different than you.
And by “neighbors”, I mean your physical neighbors. The people you work with. The people your children go to school with. The people you live next to. The people who are different than you. When did they come over to your loving home for dinner?
Dr. Timothy Tenent, who is President of Asbury Theological Seminary, writes that, “The immigrant population actually presents the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America.” He goes on to access that 86% of the immigrant population are likely to become a Christian if someone were to act hospitably toward them.
It’s almost as if this “group” of people America wants to keep out could be the very answer she needs for spiritual transformation.
This is not a test of political security. This is a test of each Christian’s faith. It’s about what each Christian fundamentally believes about the Gospel and about the biblical worldview that each human is created in the image of God.
Every single time a person who is marginalized by the majority is loved on, the mission of God advances.
It starts with my family. It starts with your household. How we raise our children to think about those who are different than them. How we utilize our homes and resources to love those different than us. How we pray more fervently for cultural unity in the name of Jesus verses throwing darts at the other side just because they disagree with our point of view.
I love you but I care about God’s point of view more than anything.
In Exodus 22:21 (and again in Exodus 23:9) God says, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
If we are wanting to live a life that pleases God, this is where His heart is: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).
I’m not trying to convince you of your opinion on immigration. I’m just asking you to buy a gift, write a card, or host a meal for someone who is different than you this season.
Let’s start there.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.