Living in relationships with immigrants, refugees, and other low-income people has forced us to grapple with the question of what it means for us, as followers of Christ, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It has also awakened us to the ethically complex questions of immigration and refugee policy—who do we let in, what do we do with those who came in even though our government did not allow them in, and what effect will our policies have on those already here and struggling to get by? Of course, our attempts to address these questions have been shaped by our own personal journeys. — Soerens and Yang (2018), “The Immigration Dilemma” in Welcoming the Stranger, p. 9.
We have argued that Scripture makes repeated and clear calls for us to take special concern for the stranger, to love them as ourselves, and to welcome them as if serving Jesus himself. God commands us to obey, which is primary if we are to truly follow Christ. ‘There is no other road to faith or discipleship,’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, except ‘obedience to the call of Jesus.’ We dare not dismiss God’s instructions to us, but rather should move from reflection to prayerful action. Serving and loving immigrants can take on different expressions, and each are vitally important in the broader Christian witness. — p. 203.
In Fall 2018, Royce Francis wrote an in depth series on Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate, Revised and Expanded by Matthew Soerns and Jenny Yang. Although I have explored Welcoming the Stranger extensively, the book is still on my wife’s must read / share list. As such we picked up another copy at the Urbana Student Missions Conference and will prayerfully consider it together in 2019 as she serves with the ESL ministry at the local congregation of which we are members.
What is my main takeaway for those of us in the context of higher ed? Royce’s conclusion summarizes the book’s call to prayer, knowing and learning from immigrant neighbors, serving, giving, educating our churches and communities/advocacy, and addressing the root issues. My prayer / passion for us as Emerging Scholars is to embrace such a way of life, birthed by loving God and neighbor (second in priority to God) with head, heart, and hands. If you haven’t picked up Welcoming the Stranger, I encourage you to do such and journey through Royce’s series individually or with a small group.
Still not convinced? Answer the question: If your church were to create a statement on immigration, what would it say?
To God be the glory!
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!
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