“Who is my neighbor?” — Lawyer in Luke 10:29
According to USA Today, currently 14.9% of the residential population of our nation is foreign born. Immigrants and workers, whether legal or illegal, have chosen to leave their homeland in search of a better life. Refugees (displaced people) have fled their native countries for their lives and futures, while international students seek a higher education. The vast majority of our foreigners come from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, drastically different cultures from ours. And their arrival is changing the landscape of America for the rest of us.
The question of how, when and who should be given entrance to our country is a matter of national debate and governmental policy. For our purposes, how that happens is irrelevant. They are here. What will I, a follower of Jesus, do about it?
I have pondered this issue for quite awhile, seeking a Biblical perspective of the “foreigner in the land”. I watch women in hijab stand in line with me at Target and wonder about their story. This unprecedented cultural change is one of the greatest ministry lessons of 2015, and I am on a learning curve.
The first thing to note is that caring for the alien is a strong theme in Scripture, seen in the stories of God’s people. The sojourner on a long journey and in a strange land relied heavily on the hospitality of the locals. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and brothers, the Israelites, Moses, Ruth, the captives of Babylon, Esther, Jesus and his parents, the early church and John on Patmos, are a few examples of God’s people whose stories involved being a foreigner in a strange land.
Scripture clearly exhorts us to care for them.
Do not exploit the foreigners who live in your land … (Leviticus 19:33)
He (God) gives justice to orphans and widows. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. You, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
I instructed the judges, ‘You must be perfectly fair at all times, not only to fellow Israelites, but also to the foreigners living among you.’ (Deuteronomy 1:16)
The New Testament builds on the Old Testament concept of hospitality even further, pushing beyond just caring for a guest in the home.
For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35)
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it….Share in the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own bodies. (Hebrews 13:2)
But perhaps the most succinct passage on caring for the strangers among us is the parable of the Good Samaritan. “Who is my neighbor?” the religious leader asked. Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan and then asked, “Who proved to be the neighbor to the injured man?” His answer was, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus replied, “Now go and do the same thing.”
Seeing how the world has arrived on our doorstep, perhaps we should also consider God may be actually answering the prayers of His people. I’ve noticed He frequently answers prayer in ways I never expect! Believers have prayed for decades that God would “send laborers into the harvest”. But rather than us going to the other side of the world to them, suddenly the harvest is here – in our neighborhoods, malls, schools and communities. This makes us ALL missionaries to foreigners without leaving our homes.
I recently read a quote from a former Muslim, who works with refugees. He pointed out, “This is the best time for them to hear the message,” he says. “Their hearts are so soft.”
Is God doing a new thing? If so, I must be obedient.
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Published January 8, 2016