“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Just to be extraordinarily clear, a country has the sovereign right to close its borders to people it deems undesirable or dangerous. It can build large, magnificent walls and secure its airports and other ports of entry.
An organization, or any gathering of people, can define for themselves who belongs and who doesn’t. They can decide that certain people believe the wrongs things or live the wrong way and shun those who don’t fit.
As individuals, we all have free will and we can choose to empower our fears in the form of a demagogue or some set of exclusionary practices. We can even select alternative words for this like ‘Security,’ ‘faith’ and ‘freedom’ if that makes us feel better about it.
What a country, organization, or individual can’t do is think themselves a Christian nation, the capital ‘C’ Church, or profess themselves to be a follower of Christ while they chose something other than love.
The Bible isn’t extraordinarily clear on as much as I might like it to be, but in this area, it is very hard to read around some inconvenient themes:
“Be not afraid.”
“You are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
The themes of resisting fear and offering hospitality don’t just appear in a few scattered texts here or there; they are woven throughout the Bible in such a way that were one to remove these threads they would unravel the very image of God there contained.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
The immigrant we turn out from our communities, the refugees that we stop and send back to danger, the person who doesn’t look, act or think like us; they all might be devils bent on our destruction. Living in fear, that is who they remain.
But for the follower of Jesus, the possibility, the promise, that they might be something more – an angel or even Jesus himself – is the starting point of our engagement. We are people “whose citizenship is in heaven” called to live fearlessly so that we might love freely.
We can choose to live in fear or we can be free to love. The choice for Christians may not be easy but it is extraordinarily clear.