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Matthew Soerens — Immigration: Opportunity or Threat

Immigration: Opportunity or Threat?

Matthew Soerens, US Church Training Specialist, World Relief

Main Texts: The stories of the Pharaohs in the times of Joseph (Genesis 37-47) and Moses (Exodus 1)

Big Picture: While some people, including some within the Church, see the arrival of immigrants as a threat, Scripture challenges us to see immigration as an opportunity to “make disciples of all nations” within our own communities.

1. The biblical story of Joseph and Pharaoh provides us with a model for seeing the arrival of immigrants as an opportunity and responding with hospitality

  1. Joseph was an involuntary immigrant forced to migrate to Egypt (Genesis 37:28)
  2. As one model of how to respond to immigrants, consider the way that the Pharaoh over Egypt interacts with Joseph
    1. Pharaoh recognized that Joseph, an immigrant, brought unique skills and wisdom that could be an opportunity to help his nation (Genesis 41:38-40)
    2. When Joseph’s brothers and father arrived as immigrants in Egypt, Pharaoh welcomed them with hospitality, offering them the best of the land (Genesis 47:5-6a)
    3. Pharaoh consistently looked for how the arrival of immigrants could be an opportunity: he asks Joseph to place the most skilled among his brothers over his own livestock (Genesis 47:6b)

2. Scripture also gives us the negative example of a different Pharaoh, some years later, who saw immigrants a threat and responded with hostility

  1. After Joseph’s death, a new Pharaoh came to power who “did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8); when we only see people as a mass, rather than see each person as a unique individual, it is natural to respond as this Pharaoh did, sensing a threat
  2. Pharaoh’s became afraid of the Hebrews because…
    1. They became numerous, presenting a demographic challenge to his rule (Exodus 1:9)
    2. He worried that they would join his enemies, presenting a national security concern (Exodus 1:10)
    3. He did not want to deport the Hebrews, because he benefited from their labor, but he also would not grant them the same rights as the native-born Egyptians (Exodus 1:11-14)
  3. Because he perceived the presence of these foreigners as a threat, Pharaoh responded with hostility, ultimately ordering the genocide of Hebrew baby boys (Exodus 1:22)

3. As Americans living in a country to which many immigrants are arriving, we can see immigration as an opportunity and respond with hospitality, or believe that immigration presents a threat and respond with hostility

  1. Economists almost universally agree that, contrary to popular misperception, immigration and even illegal immigration in particular have a net positive impact on the U.S. economy
    1. 96% of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal said that illegal immigration had had a positive impact on the U.S. economy[i]
    2. We err if we focus only on the costs that immigrants bring, without accounting for their contributions as workers, taxpayers, consumers, and entrepreneurs
    3. Michael Gerson, a Christian and a former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, notes that immigrants “are not just mouths but hands and brains. They are a resource”[ii]
  2. But for Christians, the opportunity of immigration is much greater than just an economic benefit: it presents a divinely-orchestrated opportunity to join God in His mission
    1. We are commanded to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and because of immigration, the nations have arrived at our doorstep
    2. Many immigrants are already strong believers, and they breathe new life into churches and denominations in need of revitalization, serving as agents of God’s mission both in their own ethnic communities and beyond
    3. Other immigrants are not yet believers, which presents us the opportunity to share the hope of the gospel as we reach out in love to our newest neighbors
    4. Dr. Timothy Tennent says that “86% of the immigrant population in North America are likely to either be Christians or become Christians. That’s far above the national average…The immigrant population actually presents the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America… We shouldn’t see this as something that threatens us. We should see this as a wonderful opportunity.”[iii]
  3. Too many American Christians are missing this missional opportunity, because they have accepted a media-driven narrative that leads them to view immigrants as a threat rather than viewing the arrival of immigrants through the lens of the Bible
    1. Most white evangelical Christians in the U.S., when asked about their views on immigrants, said that immigrants present “a threat to American customs and values”[iv]
    2. That attitude is not because evangelical Christians take the Bible more seriously than other groups, but rather because, by our own admission, the vast majority of evangelicals view immigration primarily from a perspective other than that of their Christian faith: just 12% of white evangelicals say their views on immigrants are primarily influenced by their Christian faith[v]
    3. Perhaps as an effect of Christians viewing immigrants as a threat, many immigrants of non-Christian religious traditions say that they do not even know a Christian, suggesting we are not doing a great job of reaching out to our immigrant neighbors: fully 60% of those of non-Christian religious traditions in the US, most of whom are immigrants, say they do not know a Christian[vi]

Conclusion: If we think about immigration merely from a political, economic, or cultural perspective and fail to examine the issue from a biblical, missional perspective, we may miss out on the opportunity God has presented to his Church within the U.S. to join in what He is doing through the migration of people, drawing people to Himself. [i] See http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114477669441223067 [ii] See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/06/AR2010120605406.html [iii] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHx95cuXpUE [iv] See http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/28/most-say-illegal-immigrants-should-be-allowed-to-stay-but-citizenship-is-more-divisive/#religion [v] Seehttp://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/17/few-say-religion-shapes-immigration-environment-views/ [vi] See http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/non-christians-who-dont-know-christians.html

Dr. Jim Goodroe — Stranger Things Will Happen

Stranger Things Will Happen

Dr. Jim Goodroe, Director of Missions, Spartanburg County Baptist Network

Main Text: Matthew 25:31-46

Big Picture: What determines whether you will be called out of heaven, or be safe to get in?

  1. The Context: Matthew 25:31-46
    1. Who: the Son of Man, which Jesus uses to describe himself thirty times in the book of Matthew. (Matthew 25:31)
    2. When: the future, at the end time. (Matthew 25:31)
    3. What: judgment, specifically eternal judgment to punishment or life. (Matthew 25:46)
    4. King Jesus judges into heaven those who welcomed the stranger, and into hell those who did not.
  2. HARD to UNDERSTAND
    1. One reason that it may be hard to understand is found in the common name for this text: the “Judgment of the nations.”
      1. How could you send a whole nation to an eternal heaven or hell on a “group policy”?
      2. Not geopolitical entities, but ethno-linguistic groups. This is the delivery system that gets everyone to the judgment. None are excluded from the judgment.
      3. They will leave as individuals – some to eternal punishment, others to eternal life.
      4. Heaven will include people from every nation (Revelation 5:9)
    2. A second reason this passage is hard to understand is that it SEEMS to teach salvation by works, that people go to heaven or hell based on whether they were kind and responsive to people in need, or ignored them.
      1. Faith without works is dead, because we show our faith by our good works. (James 2:14-26)
      2. Start with the faith, and add the works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
      3. We demonstrate our faith in God by DOING God’s will. (Matthew 7:21)
      4. The story of the rich man who did NOT do this, and went to Hades. (Luke 16)
    3. Yet another reason this text is hard to understand is the identity of WHOM Jesus means are “his brethren” (25:40) or “these brothers of mine”?
      1. Two interpretations:
        1. All humanity in mind, speaking as the “Son of Man”.
        2. Those who HAVE come to faith in HIM and joined the Christian family and community, as in Mark 3:31-35.
      2. The strangers whom we are called to love
        1. Strangers to the extreme include refugees and immigrants.
          1. Both groups include higher percentage of Christians than the general population
        2. Immigrants strangers in the U.S. are also likely to be Christian, and are the fastest growing sector of the North American church.
        3. Show compassion to people whether they are already Christian or just potential believers. (Galatians 6:10)
  3. HARD TO UNDERTAKE
    1. We have a short perspective. We forget where we came from.
      1. The Pilgrims who settled this New World would not have survived the first winter had not some friendly Native Americans like Squanto and Chief Massasoit welcomed these strangers, and taught them how to plant corn.
      2. We should treat immigrants humanely because they are human, and because we were once them.
      3. God commanded his Old Testament people to welcome the stranger because THEY themselves had been strangers in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)
      4. Jesus remembered the immigrant strain in His family tree.
        1. Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite, and Bathsheba the Hittite.
        2. His parents fled with Him to Egypt because a hostile regime was committing infanticide.
        3. Christ was the ultimate stranger, who migrated from heaven to earth so we can one day make it from earth to heaven.
      5. Remember the times in our personal and family stories when we were strangers.
        1. Personal changes in schools, jobs, cities.
    2. Strangers are strange people. Webster includes: odd, unusual, irregular, distant, foreign, alien, estranged, not one’s own, not pertaining to oneself or one’s belongings.”
      1. The Bible has the word xenos from which we get the word xenophobia, the fear of strangers. We fear the unknown.
        1. We must move from xenophobia (fear of strangers) to philaxenia (love of strangers) (Hebrews 13:1-3)
  4. HOW to UNDERTAKE Welcoming the Stranger – some ABCs on how to get started:
    1. All Around us are people who are strangers in various ways.
      1. “A stranger is a friend whom we have not yet met. “ – Will Rogers
    2. Begin Branching out by acts of hospitality to internationals here who speak English and want to meet Americans and would love to be invited into your home for a simple meal.
    3. Continue by Crossing the language barrier.
      1. Simple training to teach ESoL, volunteer with refreshments, childcare, or transportation.

Conclusion: Today’s text was Jesus’ sermon on the Sanctity of Human Life, his take on which people are safe to enter heaven or out into eternal punishment. Most of us here today know that we are safe for heaven, but on earth we are out of step with Jesus’ standards for welcoming the stranger. We have our reservation for heaven, but we’ve had reservations about welcoming the strangers in our corner of earth. If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of something specific, you may come to the altar and pray, or there at your seat tell the Lord that you will take the specific steps He shows you to start welcoming the stranger.

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