One of the joys of living in a more urban area is the cultural diversity. Connecticut, where I serve as a church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board, is particularly diverse. In the state, 12.9 percent of the population is foreign born — and an additional 2.4 percent was born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Connecticut’s foreign-born population has grown by 61 percent since 1990, one of the nation’s highest growth rates. Though people have moved to Connecticut from all over the world, the three most common nations of origin are Poland, India and Jamaica. What an interesting mix of cultures this gives our state!
How should Christians deal with all these people from other places moving into homes down the street or apartments next door? Leviticus 19:33-34 reminds us that, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” That seems pretty clear. Christians are to treat people from other nations as if they are natives to our own land. But are Christians following this Biblical principle?
Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours of the week across the land. Part of that is due to language barriers, and that is totally understandable. But since many immigrants from other countries have excellent English skills, the language barrier does not explain everything. Perhaps our Sunday morning worship remains segregated because in our hearts we are still not treating the foreign born as we would treat the person who has lived here all their lives.
Why is it important for Christians to treat those from other places like native-born Americans? When people go through hard times, they often turn to extended family or longtime friends for support. In times of sickness, childbirth, death, financial hardship and other personal tragedies, families and longtime friends become a safety net that sustains us until things get better.
People who move from other countries have no such safety net. Who better for them to turn to than followers of Christ? In some instances, their legal status may mean they are excluded from the social welfare system. I was recently blessed to be with a friend who purchased multiple baskets of groceries for an immigrant who cannot work because he only has a student visa. But the immigrant’s family was in need, and as a Christian, my friend could not just walk away from that need without taking action. It is what Christ would have us do.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Terry Dorsett is a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board based in Hartford, Conn., and the author of several books including “Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church.”