By Karen Chavez
For years, the United States has received immigrants and refugees from other lands. Fleeing from injustice and oppression, seeking freedom and the opportunity of a better life; and many have found it here. But at the same time, we recognize that some aspects of the immigrant experience are far from the vision of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Many people who try to migrate are suffering, and in some cases dying; human rights are violated; families are separated; and racist and xenophobic attitudes continue to exist.
With immigrants present in our churches and communities, we must allow our common faith in Jesus to move us to look for ways to love and care for them. We ought to do this in a way that transcends borders and eliminates all forms of discrimination and violence, building relationships of justice and love.
In the Old Testament we see the heart of God in regard to migrant people.
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut. 10:17-19).
Here God tells the people of Israel who He is, His character, who they used to be, and what they ought to do – to love the foreigner and marginalized in their land.
In the New Testament, Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, to foreign lands, to announce the Good News, and to unite all peoples, through faith and baptism (see Mt 28:16-20). Jesus sealed this mandate by sending the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-21). It is the Holy Spirit who has been present throughout the history of the Church to act against injustice, division, and oppression. It is the Holy Spirit that fights to achieve respect for human rights, the unity of races and cultures, and the incorporation of the foreigner and marginalized in the full life of the Church.
What do these scriptures mean to us today? First, we see a guideline of how God wants us to love the foreigner. But to obey this wholeheartedly, we must surrender ourselves to God, be entirely sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit. This will enable us to fulfill the Great Commandment:
Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).
This full conversion of heart and mind, results in the need to overcome attitudes of cultural superiority, indifference, and racism; not to see the foreigner as a stranger with bad intentions, a terrorist, or an economic threat, but as our neighbor, a person full of dignity and rights who was made in the image of God.
- How can our Christian practice today align with God’s command that we love and care for foreigners?
- In what tangible way can you be a good neighbor to an immigrant or refugee in your community?
Lord we ask today that you would open our eyes and hearts to those around us who are suffering from the injustices of racism and discrimination, who are far from home seeking refuge in an unknown environment. Would you lead us towards Christ-filled compassion, generously welcoming them into our churches, homes, and communities. We pray specifically today for the millions of people fleeing Ukraine and seeking refuge in other countries as theirs is under attack. Lord continue to send those stirred towards love and compassion to their aid.