Strangers in your land

Written by Arch Hoercher

 Immigration – a word that brings up many thoughts in our minds.  We may think that there needs to be more laws or fewer laws.  It may make us angry or uncomfortable.  Politically we have our own ideas about what may or may not need to be done about the current situation.  I am not going to talk about politics or what may be broken with the United States policies as they pertain to immigration.  I am not going to talk about building a wall or a revolving door.  What I am going to talk about is what God’s Word says about these “strangers in our land”.

 Let’s look at what God’s Word says about these “strangers”.  Exodus 23:9 – “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Jeremiah 22:3 – “Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow.”  God gave very harsh warnings to the people of Israel if they mistreated the “stranger” including captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem – Ezekiel 22:29: “The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger” and in Malachi 3:5 Israel was not to “deprive the foreigners among you of justice” and in Zechariah 7:10 that they were to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.”  So what was God telling the people of Israel?  That all people no matter their place of origin or their social status should be treated with honor and respect.  If you don’t think God uses the foreigner, look at Matthew’s ancestry of Christ (Matthew 1:5-6) – in it are two foreign born women.  Rahab of Jericho, a prostitute who married an Israelite and Ruth of Moab who became the grandmother of King David.  One could also mention Uriah the Hittite and Doeg the Edomite.  God has a place for all peoples in His kingdom.

What does Jesus have to say about the “stranger” in the New Testament?  Jesus lived out His belief.  He extended love and acceptance to all who He met.  One example is His meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well.  The Jews held nothing but disdain and contempt toward the Samaritans.  The fact that Jesus had a conversation with this woman and offered her living water (salvation) which led to many of the Samaritan woman’s friends coming to belief as well (John 4:1-26) demonstrated His love for the “stranger”.  He also healed the Canaanite woman’s demon processed daughter where He said, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire” Matthew 15:28.  Then there is Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan.  He made a Samaritan of all people the hero of this story.  But the point of the story was that no matter who the person is or where they are from or of what nationality they might be, we (Christians) are to meet the needs of others who are hurting, thirsty, hungry and pennyless.  Why?  Because we are to love others as Jesus loves us. PERIOD!

Acts 10:34-35: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”  Peter is basically saying that all people, no matter what race or ethnicity, were created in God’s image.  From Dave Breese book, Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave (Chicago: Moody, 1990) he wrote “This is not about ‘issues’ or ‘culture wars’ but about persons made in the image of God.  Our churches must be the presence of Christ to all persons, regardless of country of origin or legal status.  Our commitment to a multinational kingdom of God’s reconciliation in Christ must be evident in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations.  We might be natural-born Americans, but we’re all immigrants to the kingdom of God.”  Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us from Evil (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997) wrote that “at the end of the day, immigration reform does not stem from the agenda of the donkey or the elephant; rather, welcoming the stranger is a conviction that flows from the agenda of the Lamb.”  So what is the Church to do?  We are to get involved in this great mission field.

Foreign missions have come to us.  We now have a “foreign” mission field within the borders of the United States.  At no other time in our country’s history have we had so many immigrants from so many different parts of the world.  Iraqi, Syrian, Philippine, Mexican, Cental American, South American, Bosnian, Russian, and Asian immigrants just to name a few.  So, what is the Church to do?  We are to go out into the world (our own country) and make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We can host or sponsor English language classes.  We can seed churches in the immigrant areas.  We can be a witness to the love of Christ by ministering to the needs of these peoples.  We are to be like Christ as an example to all these “strangers” in our land who all have been made in the image of Christ.  No matter what our individual political affiliation or our feelings toward our country’s immigrant policies, we are still commanded to be the light of the world.