|Questions and opinions about immigration abound as Americans debate our response to human migration to the United States.
Authors Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang interviewed scores of evangelical pastors throughout the U.S. before writing their popular book, “Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate.”
They made a disheartening discovery: hardly anyone based their opinion about immigration on biblical principles. Yet the Bible has much advice to offer about immigration. The people of God were often migrants in foreign lands or hosted migrants in their own land of Israel.
The good news is that a new understanding about immigration is beginning to unfold among evangelicals. National evangelical leaders and denominational presidents recognize that God in His sovereignty is at work in the movements of humanity and are giving leadership to a just, compassionate and truthful response to questions about immigration.
Some evangelical leaders have proposed that if, at the end of the 21st century, America remains a predominantly Christian nation, our descendents will look back and recognize that Christianity remained strong in America precisely because of the spiritual influence of new immigrants coming to America. We take hope in the truth that God is building His church, His way.
World Relief Minnesota is a ministry of Transform Minnesota, and through it evangelical churches throughout the Twin Cities are working together to “welcome the stranger,” embracing a biblical vision of caring for those who are vulnerable.
Many times people ask us why so many refugees come to Minnesota. Again, Scripture gives us insight that goes deeper than the human causes that are apparent to us.
Certainly refugees come to Minnesota looking for hope and safety, to escape horrific persecution, fear and isolation. But, as Scripture brings to light, the reason they come to our communities is not only about their appalling situations but also about God’s sovereign movement in history.
The apostle Paul declared the following: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).
This articulates that it is God who is bringing the nations to the U.S. and illuminates the “why” behind this unprecedented movement of people. It’s not just that our new neighbors might experience peace and security and find God, but it’s that they are also God’s agents to bring you and me a new understanding of God, to help revitalize our churches and to bring the gospel into the lives of those unreached or un-churched in our own communities, who need to hear of God’s love and provision through passionate new voices.
Closely aligned to this concept is what Jesus spoke as recorded in Mark’s gospel: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17).
This speaks to the identity of the Church, not just as a place to pray about all the nations but as a place for all the nations to gather together and worship God.
This vision is captured in Revelation 7 as people from every tribe, nation and language gathered around the throne of God in worship. While it is a future vision, it is also a future-now vision. Surely God delights in church communities where refugees and natives gather together to worship—living out God’s purpose to unite all nations under His leadership.
Open your hearts to what God wants to teach you and what God can teach His Church, through those who have traveled a hard road to call themselves our friends, neighbors and joint heirs of God’s blessings.
Bob Oehrig is executive director of World Relief Minnesota and was previously pastor of Outreach and Mission at Grace Church Roseville and executive director of Daystar U.S.