A word on hospitality and loving immigrants.

Dear Church,

Like you, I have been following the unfolding tragedy of children being separated from their parents at the US border.  I have had some tense and not necessarily productive conversations with friends and neighbors - maybe you have, too.  These are difficult times and difficult conversations.

I am not an expert in immigration policy; I have a degree in theology, not in political science.  As a pastor I look at these situations not from a legal perspective but instead from the perspective of the Christian scriptures and the Christian faith.  And when it comes to foreigners and immigrants, the Christian faith has a lot to say.  Many of the key figures in the Bible story were immigrants and refugees: Jacob’s family went to Egypt because of a famine, Ruth and Naomi lived as strangers in a foreign land, and the family of Jesus fled to Egypt in the face of persecution.  

The command to show hospitality to foreigners and immigrants runs throughout the Bible.  In Exodus 22:21, God commands the Israelites, “You shall not wrong or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  This command is repeated throughout the Old Testament.  The New Testament considers the practice of hospitality to be central to the Christian faith.  Just recently I was reminded that the Greek word that is often translated as “hospitality” is philo-xenosPhilo means “love” - from philo we get words like “philosophy” (the love of wisdom) and “Philadelphia” (brotherly love).  The word xenos means “foreigner” or “immigrant.”   From xenos we get the word “xenophobia,” the fear of foreigners.  In other words, when the New Testament calls us to hospitality, it is calling us to love foreigners and immigrants.  This sort of hospitality is an essential mark of the Christian faith.  The apostle Paul lists the love of immigrants as one of the qualifications of a leader in the church (Titus 1:8), and he advises that any widow receiving support from the church should have a good reputation as a lover of foreigners (1 Timothy 5:10).  

Other people will be able to tell you how to make your voice heard.  Other people will be able to guide you to charities and organizations that care for immigrants and those seeking asylum.  All I can offer today is this: if your heart has been broken at what we see happening on the border, you are not alone.  Our faith teaches us that God’s heart is broken, too.  

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Jeremy