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Immigration and Christianity in the UK. Some notes

1. Of Britain’s 6.5 m immigrants, about 1.1m are Muslim and 3.5m Christian

2. About 5m migrants, now living overseas, have come from the UK

3. Famous refugees in the bible: Abraham, the brothers of Joseph (economic migrants), the people of Israel (political refugees), Naomi (economic) and then Ruth (family reasons), David (political – several times!), people of Israel (forced into exile), Joseph, Mary and Jesus (political)


1. Dignity of each created person

Gen 1:26f Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

2. Command to love the stranger (because you were once strangers)

Lev 19:33 ‘“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not ill-treat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
 (cf. Lev 19:17-18 “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”)

Ex 22:21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (cf Ex 23:9)

Jeremiah 22:3   This is what the Lord says: do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (cf Deut 27:19; Jer 7:5-7; Zech 7:9-10; Malachi 3:5)

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Luke 10:3-37 Story of good Samaritan: ‘Go and do likewise’

Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

3. The importance of government and law

Romans 13:1-2   Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment  .. (v4) for the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.

4. The fact that as Christians we are exiles and strangers in this world

Philippians 3:20  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Hebrews 13:14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
1 Peter 1:1 To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of ..
1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires .. Live such good lives among the pagans that, .. they may see your good works and glorify God on the day he visits us


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argues that “multiculturalism has had its day and it’s time to move on”. He distinguishes between a country house “where every minority is welcome but it’s a guest”, a hotel where “nobody is at home, it doesn’t belong to anyone — we’ve each got our room and so long as we don’t disturb the neighbours we can do whatever we like” and a home we build together. (Times 21.8.13)

How can we create a society which allows us to absorb migrant communities so that we build one common home, without creating social unrest?

Fears: that we will be ‘swamped’ by mass migration; of the stranger who doesn’t do things the way we do; of ‘the dangerous’ stranger (eg headlines about numbers of Romanians who have been ‘arrested’ – 20000 in 5 years); that they will take ‘our’ jobs and benefits; of militant Islam and the fact that we are becoming a less ‘Christian’ society

[Not sure that the loss of our Christian identity as a country can be laid at the door of immigration or Islam – rather of those who have an aggressively anti-Christian agenda, who would like to see a fully secularised state, and who are using migrants and other faiths as a stick to beat Christians with. The reality is that migrants are reinvigorating many churches. Christianity benefits from immigration more than Islam]

Requirements for a harmonious society?

1. The need for boundaries?
Kelly Monroe Kullberg is an InterVarsity minister to faculty and graduate students, author/editor of the bestselling Finding God at Harvard, and founder of The Veritas Forum.

“Ours is a God who breaks through barriers – and a God who cares about fair dealing and indigenous justice. Grace and truth, mercy and justice, God is too transcendent and too loving to reside in only one part of the equation. So we should be mindful both of welcoming the other and of establishing wise boundaries that defend and serve the communities in which we live. . . .
 Naturally, those who honor God and his Word will love the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. The difficulty comes with the influx of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants into a region whose majority population is neither adequately equipped nor enthusiastic to receive them. In this context it’s appropriate to explore what is meant, in Scripture, by the usefulness of hedges and fences, the importance of just weights, and the sheer folly and even sinfulness of those who spend what they have not first saved. Individuals, groups and nations that put themselves in debt, especially severe debt, place themselves in positions of vulnerability and even enslavement to those whom they owe. As the author of the Proverbs tells us, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” At some point, it is neither wise nor right to put ourselves in deeper and deeper debt in order to provide greater and greater benefits to more and more people. We’re first to put our own house in order.
Let’s leave behind the rhetoric and the easy sloganeering and confront the hard task of discernment. Just as Paul taught the Church to delineate among widows in order to find those for whom the Church would provide, we are called, I believe, to make difficult and principled decisions about stewardship and about providing the conditions for healthy flourishing communities that can welcome many strangers not with hostility but with hospitality. With kindness and grace. Obedience to the whole counsel of Scripture yields sustainable growth and goodness to those in need” (Quoted by Mark Roberts in Blog below)

I can’t help thinking that the perspective would look very different when viewed by one of the ‘have nots’ in our world.

2. The need for a shared language and common citizenship

A community needs to have a shared language, shared ideas about citizenship and also a shared story if it is to be cohesive. It is not sufficient for us to sit in our own hotel rooms, each with our own story. Perhaps the story of the accommodating hotel is our story. However I would argue that while Christianity remains the ‘established religion’, the story of Christmas and Easter – of a God who values each individual sufficient to become a human person, of the nature of love and self sacrifice, and of hope even in the deepest pit -  officially is that story.

3. The need for a single law to which all are accountable

cf. Exodus 12:48f (requirement to be circumcised if you wish to eat Passover); Leviticus 16:29 (deny yourselves and not do any work on day of atonement); Leviticus 17:8ff (laws re offering sacrifice, eating blood)
 Leviticus 18:26ff But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

a) The benefits to the church

b) The opportunity for the church

Jeff Barneson is a longtime staff member for InterVarsity’s ministry to faculty and graduate students at Harvard University.
What if God’s intention in the hyper-diversification of our country is akin to what happened when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Historians question whether the message of the early Christians, without the presence of the Romans, would have spread beyond the local setting of Jerusalem. What if the present situation in the United States is just another accelerated opportunity to bring good news to people who are more than ready to hear it?
I believe it with all my heart: If we spend all our time and energy on the policy discussion, and never reorient our perspective and realign our congregations to engage with actual immigrants and their actual circumstances, we may miss out on the extraordinary opportunity that God has placed in front of us.

What could we do?


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