What does the Bible have to say about ‘The Foreigner’?

What does the Bible have to say about ‘The Foreigner’?

What does the Bible have to say about the foreigner?

Refugee, asylum seeker, status unknown. The Bible uses language like: strangers, sojourners, aliens, foreigners, neighbours. These are all names of those that are not included equally, and are often mistreated as they live outside their ‘home country’.

As you might have read in these articles, there are many reasons people live in countries different to those they were not born in. Some have fled war or mistreatment. Some are looking to use their skills and find work not available in their own country. It’s important to remember that ‘foreign’ is not synonymous with socio-economic need. There are foreign nationals that come to add value and skills to our universities, bring entrepreneurial gifts or even to adventure and gain insight from our diverse culture. Yet the stereotype of those ‘with resources’ and those ‘without’ perpetuates itself in South Africa.

What does the Bible have to say about the foreigner? Here are some truths about foreigners that can shape our Biblical world view:

Christians are all foreigners

Jesus was a foreigner – a stranger to this world. He chose to move into our neighbourhood (earth), leaving his heavenly home. If we believe in Jesus and identify as Christian, we too are not of this world anymore but rather are citizens of heaven. Our point of view should be of what matters to the Kingdom, not what the ‘world’ focuses on. We are new creations in Christ and have a new focus (Colossians 3:1-14)

Let’s look at what the Bible says on this subject

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: … rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3: 1-14

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. – Phil 3:20-21

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. – Ephesians 2:19

Our status or title on earth matters little to God. He reminds us of our citizenship with him in heaven! In many ways, these texts inspire all to experience homecoming with God, rather than only trying to motivate empathy with the foreigner who is in another location. We’re called to have great empathy and compassion for all who experience alienation. When we view our location as secondary, we can be comforted by our status with God.

Foreigners can bring blessing

Listening to some forms of news, you may come to believe that foreigners only bring problems. The media can sometimes portray rebel-rousers coming into the land to ‘take’ and be a burden on the government. The negative press that comes with being an ‘outsider’ in a place paints complex people, with complex circumstances, with a broad brush. As a Christian, our perspective should be filtered with the lenses of Jesus’ example.

Jesus lived with a purpose. Jesus had eyes for others. He brought blessing as a foreigner. He didn’t ‘take’ or ‘become a burden’ to the land but rather his presence was a blessing and added rich truth. He brought grace, care, and gentleness. He sought places that needed support and brought life, light, and hope. What if we viewed foreigners in our land as those who can bring blessing?

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Heb 13:2

Imagine Jesus walking on this earth. He wouldn’t be standing on a soap box in the middle of town and casting all into categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Jesus clearly taught about inclusion [in terms of salvation and restoration in relationship to the Father] – first to the Jew, then for the Gentile. Those not like the ‘original clan’ were included in his message – adopted into the family.

Jesus listened to individuals, stopped his journey to make time for one person, and did miracles for the health and healing of just one person. Think about the woman at the well (John 4), Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and-, Lazarus (John 11). These outcasts show that the character of Jesus was to seek out individuals, hear their stories and offer help and restore. Jesus brought blessings wherever he went!

In the same respect, another reason people might live as foreigners is that they are called by God to do so. Practicality and social factors aside, Foreign Nationals might be here because they, like Isaac in the Old Testament, were commanded by God to go to that place.

Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. – Gen 26:3

When we look at the bigger picture, as Christians, we believe God is in control and ordains our coming and going. We are commanded to welcome and care for foreigners.

God’s heart is for those without protection and without the same care as those living within a family unit. In multiple scriptures, he outlines his command for us to care for and be aware of the foreigner. God desired this in the Old Testament and Jesus taught about it in the New Testament as well. Clearly, this is important to the Christian walk. We are spiritually linked to others that need extra love and support from the body of Christ.

When we look at the bigger picture, as Christians, we believe God is in control and ordains our coming and going

We are commanded to welcome and care for foreigners

God’s heart is for those without protection and without the same care as those living within a family unit. In multiple scriptures, he outlines his command for us to care for and be aware of the foreigner. God desired this in the Old Testament and Jesus taught about it in the New Testament as well. Clearly, this is important to the Christian walk. We are spiritually linked to others that need extra love and support from the body of Christ.

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt. – Exodus 23:9

The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:34

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. – Luke 10:27

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. – Zechariah 7:9-10

The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. – Psalm146:9

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.- Luke 10:27

How we treat foreigners speaks volumes about our love for God 

Do we see our daily interactions, our passing by strangers, our daily ins-and-outs as a way to show the love of God to others? Or do we only see our mission trips or special collections for the poor as ways to serve God?

The Gospels remind us that being aware of others’ needs and doing small things with a pure heart is true service to God. And this love tells the world who we serve and what we’re about.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. – John 13:34-35

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25: 35-40

Our homes and churches should be the most welcoming, inclusive places for foreigners. As a matter of fact, ANYONE who feels disconnected in the world should be able to find refuge among Christ-followers. Jesus taught us to live as foreigners – to not think of this world as our own. So if we too lived as if we had another home and were here for a short time to bless this place, then we will send a message to the world, just as Jesus did.

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