Originally posted Feb. 1, 2012, at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
Each time I’m in Honduras I’m reminded that I am an alien (non-citizen) in a strange land.
The language is different, as well as the culture, food and living conditions. My skin and hair coloring immediately set me apart as a gringa.
People take one look at me, label me as a gringa and then assume all sorts of things about me from being arrogant, stupid or rich. I’m always so grateful for those who go out of their way to accept me and make the effort to get to know me as simply another human being.
Because of the language/culture issues this is not easy. There are those who have the gentle patience to teach me their way of life. Because I’m keenly aware at every turn that I’m a stranger in a foreign land, it is such a relief to encounter those who are welcoming.
Over and over throughout Scripture we are commanded to welcome the non-citizen. Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 says, “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
This verse from Deuteronomy 27:19 uses even stronger language, “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien of justice.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus states the criteria for sorting the sheep from the goats: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
The challenge of immigration
Recently I have had the chance to learn about one of the biggest challenges facing our country — immigration. Conversations churn about how to integrate newcomers into a society in a fair and human way and recognize that they, too, are made in the image of God.
Unfortunately, the national conversation has devolved into a polarizing debate often characterized by misinformation and fear at every level. It seems to me that a great deal of the legislation that has passed and is being proposed is not only unwelcoming but mean-spirited.
As Christians — followers of Jesus Christ — we have no option. We must be welcoming.
For me the first step involves becoming aware of the unjust manner in which non-citizens are being treated. And because I am a Christian, I cannot simply be a hearer of the word but must also be a doer.
While not sure where the journey will lead, we walk by faith not by sight. Won’t you walk with me? And in the words of Martin Luther we say, “Here we stand, we can do no other, may God help us!”
Find a link to Ann Bassett’s entry at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.