There are a number of passages in Old Testament that point to God’s concern for caring for those from other cultures and immigrants, like Exo 22:21a (and emphasized again Exo 23:9):
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners
However, other OT passages like this (including Lev 23:22, Num 15:15, Lev 25:6, etc.) are not just isolated, but represent a mere foretaste of the grand theme of the mission of the in-gathering of the nations in the New Testament. The famous passage known as the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20, sets forth this mission in clear terms, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. The Greek here for “nations”, is “ethnos”, which is more precisely translated as ethnic groups or cultures.
This is more than just a call to evangelize, but reveals God’s aim to glorify Himself through the manifold praise and diverse adoration of every nation. The focus on the nations/ethnic groups, the “ethnos” is repeated numerous times in the New Testament, and is climatically central to God’s final vision of His bride, the Church, in Rev 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
We can’t compartmentalize this commission, this vision, to just inviting some friends to church sometime, it must redefine every facet of our interaction with our community and society. A singular commitment to this mission means rejecting a zenophobic cocoon, and instead embracing a whole-hearted pursuit of showing God, His Kingdom, His love to every ethnic group both near and far.
This affects both our local activities and broader public policies. We all have refugees and immigrants among us that we can reach out to. But we can’t honestly claim to be committed to teaching and calling the nations to obedience by building fences to keep them out. We undermine the efforts of those that are preaching the gospel when we bomb the very ones God called us to reach out to and love. Welcoming immigrants is not only integral to mission of in-gathering, but many believe migration is one of the powerful opportunities for many to escape poverty, which fulfills another strong Biblical theme of caring for the poor. Our allegiance to God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of all the nations, even to those that are considered our enemy (Matt 5:43), or that we fear might affect us, or alter our land, must usurp any allegiance to our country or our culture (Matt 6:24). Seek first the Kingdom of God.
Lord, please forgive us for our hypocrisy and lack of commitment to your glory among the nations. May we demonstrate your ways, your welcoming love, your invitation, you forgiveness, your generosity, to every culture both close and distant, friend or foe.
I may try to write about these topics a little more later. Some of these deserve more depth, if I get a chance. But we will see.