Abiding in Joy

Speaking of our life in Christ, and His purposes on earth

“I Was a Stranger”

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This is the third post I have written on the subject of immigrants.  I want to encourage us all to take time and see what the Scriptures have to say.  Sadly, many Christians have little or no Biblical understanding on this topic.

The Evangelical Immigration Table is calling for churches and Christians all across the country to participate in the “I Was a Stranger” campaign over the next several months.  The Evangelical Immigration Table was established this past June by a number of national Christian leaders who believe that the Church needs to actively take up the Biblical mandate to care for and be an advocate for the immigrant populations in our country.

The Scriptures are numerous.  For example, just in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word (“Ger”) for immigrant is mentioned 92 times. This word is often translated as alien , foreigner, or stranger.  It literally means the foreigner that is living in your midst, that is, as an immigrant.  God’s people are instructed over and over to care for and love the immigrant, and to be sure that justice is not perverted for them.  God puts them alongside the widow and the orphan as those for whom He has a special heart……..because they are so often taken advantage of, or even mistreated.

The New Testament, as well, has plenty to say about the immigrant.  The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenia” which literally means “love of strangers”.  We think of hospitality as having our family and friends over to our home.  Biblically, though, hospitality means reaching out to those not like us, especially the strangers in our midst.  Go back now and read some of those passages that speak of practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13, I Timothy 5:10, Hebrews 13:2).  They take on a different meaning, don’t they?

There is also the parable that Jesus gave His disciples in which Jesus describes the fruit of true believers, and contrasts them to those who nominally follow Him.  To the sheep, He tells them that when He was hungry, they fed Him.  When He was thirsty, they gave Him something to drink.  And when He was a stranger (literally, an immigrant), they welcomed Him (see Matthew 25:35).  Later, Jesus continues saying, “Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me”.  I wonder how many Christians have ever noticed that Jesus is talking about the stranger here.  This is, of course, the passage from which the “I Was a Stranger” campaign gets its name.

“I Was a Stranger” is a campaign encouraging us to take 40 days to read what God’s Word says about the stranger, and to pray that we would have a Biblical response to them.  You can download a bookmark that lists a different passage to be read each of the 40 days. You really need to visit the website: www.EvangelicalImmigrationTable.com   What is really amazing is how many evangelical leaders have signed on to this.  Almost every major evangelical denomination has joined in, as well as most of our country’s seminaries and Bible schools.  Pastors of many influential churches have given their support.  Many Christian organizations, spanning the political spectrum from Focus on the Family to the Sojourners, are participating.  I have not seen such unity over a specific issue since the Church took up the pro-life banner back in the early 80’s!  The website lists some of those who have signed.

This is a very important issue for today.  John Perkins, who was a Christian civil rights leader, has recently said that this issue may be more important for the Church than even the civil rights movement.  Immigration is certainly a hot topic today.  I want to encourage Christians everywhere not to rely on political parties or talk show hosts to form your ideas.  Go to God’s Word!  It has plenty to say, and quite powerfully. And the passages we are encouraged to read through “I Was a Stranger” is a great place to start.

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