“I know about Jesus,” he says.
“What do you know about Jesus?” I reply, careful in my approach to his statement.
“I know that he died for me,” he says quietly, looking away from me.
As I look around us, the wind is still rustling our hair, there is no lull in conversation and the basketball to our left is bouncing confidently.
“Do you know why he died for y--?” I begin to ask the boy, before being interrupted by his small voice. “Can I draw a cross on your arm?” he asks, his emerald eyes meeting mine.
It is then that I catch my breath and realise who I am talking to. I put both arms out.
“I would love you to draw a cross on both my arms,” I say.
A small boy and ignorance
Every couple of months, my local church hosts ‘Love Abbotsford,’ a ministry that involves running a family day at the Housing Estates in Melbourne. And this is where I met him. A small boy, from South Sudan, who has found refuge in Australia.
It was on this day that I understood that they aren’t far away. It was this conversation where I realised that they are my neighbours. This boy was treating me as his friend and he was telling me about Jesus! Oh, the irony!
As I walked home, I decided that I couldn’t justify my ignorance anymore. Because thousands of children are dead and far more wishing they were.
Immigration continues to be one of the most politically and culturally polarising issues facing us today. It is an international, transnational and national issue. The topic of immigration policy has been a staple of presidential campaigns, European Integration and has even divided some members of the Church.
There is nothing inherently wrong with acknowledging the social, political and economic causes and effects of immigration. But there is a serious danger for Christians.
We can get so caught up in the fact that refugees are coming to our borders and shores, that we forget that the refugee is our neighbour. It is important to keep in mind that while we are instructed to “be subject to the governing authorities,” (Romans chapter 13, verse 1), we are also called to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke chapter 10, verse 27).
The simple truths of the Bible
The issue of immigration reform is nuanced, and policies are often legislatively complex.
But the Bible is distinctly clear about our response. It isn’t nuanced, nor are its instructions complex. It teaches us how to address the most polarising conflicts in the world with acts of love.
It brings clarification to a generation of believers unsure of what their response should be. It questions whether we will sustain conflict or transform it through our everyday choices. It shows us how to confront fear with pre-emptive love.
Here are five passages that discuss how Christians should treat immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers:
Love Refugees as Yourself
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Leviticus chapter 19, verses 33-34)
God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy chapter 10, verses 18-19)
Do Not Deprive Foreigners Among You of Justice
"So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi chapter 3, verse 5)
Invite the Stranger In
“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.” (Matthew chapter 25, verse 25-36)
Love Your Neighbour as Yourself
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians chapter 5, verse 14)
We know what we need to do
After reading these verses myself, I am reminded of the greatest act of love for one’s neighbour. Jesus carried out the costliest act of pre-emptive love, not only for his companions, but for his enemies.
How much more should we who were once enemies with God (Romans chapter 5, verse 8-10), who have reaped eternal benefits from God moving toward us in Jesus, jump at the opportunity to move toward the needs of those around us?
Christ tells us what he needs us to do. But there are times, like Peter, we instead choose to rest because our anguish isn’t his anguish, our tears aren’t their tears.
And like Jesus asked Peter, the children of Aleppo and Mosul ask the world, “…are you asleep? Couldn't you watch with me even one hour?” (Mark chapter 14, verse 37).
Emily Black is passionate about writing and seeks to write raw, authentic and timely pieces that disturb and comfort, engage justice and fundamentally empower. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts at The University of Melbourne and actively desires to pursue a life of untainted freedom through Jesus Christ.
Emily Black’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/emily-black.html