I don’t like that word. I don’t like to hear people called “foreigners” on American soil. And frankly, I just don’t care that much about the politics of immigration. I’m a Christian, a stranger and a foreigner in this culture. My citizenship is in another kingdom, so I’m odd and strange because of my beliefs and values.
Right now, I’m a foreigner in a more real sense. I’m writing this in my hotel room in the Dominican Republic. I’m on a mission trip, visiting Pastor Aridio Garcia and his church, Iglesia Bautista Nueve Espenaza. My task tonight was to take a Haitian translator (he’s tri-lingual) door-to-door and invite people to a Bible study, which I would later lead at a local family’s home.
At one door, the man of the house was a little upset that my Haitian friend had brought these “Americano’s” by and another group of guys around the corner felt the same. I’m not entirely sure about the source of their feelings, but Antoine tried to explain that the locals don’t always like to have “Americano’s” come down to tell Dominicans how to live. I get that.
It wasn’t personally upsetting to me to experience that rejection. I understand. But it did help me, if only a little, to identify with what it is like to be the foreigner, the intruder into the culture of another people. While most of the people here are extremely friendly and receptive, that welcoming attitude isn’t universal.
America’s ethnic landscape is changing rapidly, and it has many people afraid that we will lose our identity, our security, or our “way of life.” Such is the history of the human race. Wars have been fought over less. And it is out of this fear that we often become unwelcoming. We tend to look at those with a different shade of skin color or a different accent or language and mutter things like:
- If they’re going to come here, they should at least learn the language.
- Have you seen the way those people live? That’s just not how we do things here.
- You just can’t trust those people.
We have plenty of stereotypes and prejudices, all based ultimately in fear displaying itself as anger.
But I’m a Christian. I’m a pilgrim, a foreigner, a stranger in a land that is ultimately not my home, just as Abraham borrowed a cave for the burial of his wife in a land he himself would never call home. And as a Christian, my attitude toward guests and immigrants from places beyond our borders is different. For example, I believe that:
- We are all one human family, descended from a sinful Adam.
- I deserve hell for my sin as much as anyone else on the planet.
- The cross leveled the playing field for everyone.
- Jesus died for a church that would be very diverse.
- As an ambassador for Christ, I am to welcome everyone with a smile and with grace.
- I am glad that God is bringing the mission field to us.
- I have something to learn from people of other cultures.
- I have nothing to fear. I’m eternally secure because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- When a neighbor comes needing bread, I’m commanded to share what I have.
- English won’t be the primary language of heaven.
So if you can’t embrace people coming to America with loving, open arms, don’t bother complaining about it to me. I’m thrilled when I look at the people walking into my church every week and I see multiple colors and hear different accents. It’s beautiful, and it’s the way heaven will be. If you can’t enjoy it here, you aren’t preparing yourself well to enjoy it when we get home to heaven with the whole, mutli-colored, beautiful family of God.
For now, I’ll take my spot among the foreigners. I’m pretty sure that’s where Jesus likes to hang out.