“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” -Deuteronomy 10:19 (NIV)
The command and expectation to love the foreigner is deeply tied to the heart of God. However, one of the challenges in our cultural context is the way this subject has been polarized by partisan perspectives. Followers of Jesus must fight the pervasive temptation of viewing the arrival of immigrants and refugees to our country primarily through a political, national, or economic lens, before viewing it through a biblical one. As we seek to love and care for our foreign neighbor, we must do so by being tethered to the Scriptures, in tune with the heart of God, and in touch with contemporary issues.
We had the joy and honor of hosting a city wide event called Welcoming the Stranger: Exploring God’s Heart for the Foreigner. We were blessed to have Jenny Yang with us as the keynote speaker. Jenny is the Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief where she provides oversight for all advocacy initiatives and policy positions for the organization, and leads the organization’s public relations efforts. Jenny is co-author of “Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate” and contributing author to three other books.
If you were not able to attend in person, you can go back and watch it here or listen to it here. We also had Jenny Yang with us at the Olathe campus on a Sunday morning. You can watch the interview I conducted with her here as she gives a synopsis of the content she shared at length during the event.
There were several things Jenny shared that helped us grow in areas of education, conviction, inspiration, and action. One personal highlight was Jenny’s exposition of the incredible opportunity presented to the church to respond to the arrival of immigrants and refugees. She shared how it is absolutely an opportunity to share the gospel with those from other countries and cultures. However, it is also an opportunity to receive the gospel from the very same people.
There is a humbling work that takes place when we decenter our culture, which we often view as normative, by engaging in meaningful and mutual relationships with people from other cultures.
It is not about feeling shame or guilt about our culture, but rather about seeing the beauty of God’s design for the church as a diverse people brought together from all tribes, tongues, and nations. There is something we lack in our ability to fully understand, behold, and reflect the glory of God when we remain in homogenous communities.
The story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 is a perfect picture of this reality. The apostle Peter, who was Jewish, was able to see and understand a truth about the gospel that was lacking in him. How did he come to see this? It was through his relationship with Cornelius, the Roman centurion. Prior to his encounter with Cornelius, Peter failed to see God’s heart for making a people for himself from all peoples through the work of Christ. Through his cross-cultural experience and relationship with Cornelius, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter to see and declare these words…
…“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean….Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:28, 34-35
So as we think about our own postures, perspectives, and practices toward immigrants and refugees, we must be willing to let the words of Jesus confront, convict, and compel us. The Lord Jesus himself declared…
“…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.…” Matthew 25:35
These words show us that no small part of loving and following Christ is displayed in our hospitality and care for the stranger in our midst. These are timely words given the current refugee crisis taking place around the globe.
In addition to the thousands of refugees being resettled in our country every year, we are also seeing the many refugees from Afghanistan coming to our shores. At the time of this writing, in Kansas City alone there are already upwards of 500 Afghan refugees either already resettled or in processing.
This is an opportunity for the church to be the church. To show the world the goodness and glory of Jesus in loving and serving our neighbors in need. Not only because this is a powerful way to live out the great commission AND the great commandment, but because it is a way to witness to the world the loving power of Jesus. Especially during a time when people outside the church see Christians as not having genuine care and concern for the needs in their communities.
The Barna Group hosted an event in Kansas City in the fall of 2021 addressing the state of Kansas City and the church. In their research they found that 90% of churchgoers in Kansas City believe that their church cares about what’s happening in their community. However, when non-churchgoers were asked the same question about the church, only 54% agreed with that statement.
We want to undeniably show our city and our neighbors that we care. Which is why we are excited to share our new resource page on our website CCKC Cares. On it you will find information and ways to serve the many refugee families being resettled here in our own city. In collaboration with key agencies who are leading the way to resettle refugees in Kansas City, we seek to mobilize our church across all campuses to respond by welcoming and resettling our refugee neighbors.
There are several opportunities to get involved including help with affordable housing, volunteering at medical clinics, providing legal assistance, and welcoming families at the airport. To learn more and sign up to serve, please visit CCKC Cares.
As a church for Monday, this is a beautiful way for followers of Jesus to steward their gifts, callings, and resources for the flourishing of our world and glory of Christ. This is a unique opportunity for the church to be the church and respond with the love of Christ our King. As a people marked by the radical hospitality of our God who has welcomed us into his family through Jesus, we are joyfully compelled to respond in kind to our neighbors in need.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16–18