This is a guest post from a friend, Tom Carpenter, who is the Lead Pastor at City of Peace and works at Cafe’ Forever in the Isle of Dogs area of London
Immigration in the UK and across the world is a particularly charged issue whether it be caused by civil wars, financial crises, corrupt governments, religious persecution etc etc… Because of immigration, we’re dealing with 20-30 different nationalities on a daily basis, especially in the inner city.
One moment we have a thriving church with 70-100 people coming regularly and the next moment because of the swipe of a pen and changing legislation (and benefits), our numbers are reduced to 20-30. Almost overnight we can see an entirely new people group moving to an area and we need to be able to adapt so that we can communicate the gospel in ways that are effective and lead to life transformation.
As Christians, how are we to deal with this, especially when we see A LOT of people from different cultural, racial and religious backgrounds moving in our area? Here are some thoughts.
1. Firstly, immigration is not something new. We see Abraham immigrating to Canaan, Joseph to Egypt, Ruth to Israel, Daniel to Babylon and the list could go on and on.
2. Secondly, the Bible in the Old and New Testament speak of care for the outsider. For instance Exodus 22:21 says “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” The parable of the Good Samaritan would be another application of this in relation to immigration. I know you’ve heard this before, but we’re to love our neighbours as ourselves, and that includes ‘those foreigners’ which may come with some financial costs to us.
3. Remarkably it’s nice to be reminded that this is a part of God’s immigration plan for the nations. Why mass migration? Acts 17:26 says, ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.’ God orchestrates mass migration for his purposes. When you find someone who is utterly different from yourself maybe this is God’s way of bringing the nations here to your own door step. Why would he do this? As Acts 17:27 says, “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
It’s not easy to cross cultures and race and language, but we fortunately are given the ultimate example of immigration through Jesus Christ who didn’t just cross a national border, but he did so much more for our sake. Can you follow his example? Can you ‘immigrate’ to another class of people, or another part of your community that isn’t considered as ‘well to do’ for the sake of the gospel?
Again this is not easy. What does this look like practically here on the Isle of Dogs? Like I said, we don’t just focus on one particular people group, but rather we focus on a geographical area and focus on all the people that God brings here. Why? God wants to see every, tribe, and people come to worship him.
Our hope is to form a community of people that live locally (with a 5-10 min walk) who are being transformed by the Gospel (or at least exploring it) This way we’re able to adjust depending on the various immigration reforms while loving our neighbor and the community as a whole as best as possible.