Have you noticed the hype to discover your family genealogy? Ancestry DNA, MyHeritage and 23andME all exist to help people discover their heritage. It is vogue to know one’s ethnic roots and to discover if royalty, courage or villainy is flowing in the veins.
I’ve never done a DNA test, but I know people who mailed half-a-teaspoon of spit to a lab. They were genuinely excited to discover their ancestors were not from North America. It roused their imagination and sparked their gratitude learning that their great, great, great relative took the risk and adventure to come to America.
Discovering where one comes from seems to shrink the size of the world. One doesn’t feel so far from the rivers of Europe, the plains of Africa, the mountains of Asia or the jungles of South America when realizing he or she came from that part of the world. It leaves one feeling connected to the global community.
As for the people I’ve talked to, no one’s ancestors are from North America. They all came from different parts of the world. It’s probably true for most of us. Nearly all American’s heritages come from foreigners who journeyed to this land of opportunity (the exception being Native American Indians). That means most of us have a refugee, immigrant or illegal immigrant in our family tree.
Knowing our heritage does not guarantee a better self-image. The past never defines a person. It only explains them. However, knowing our ancestors and honoring their struggles to build a better life should enhance our sensitivity to the hurdles modern refugees, immigrants and illegal immigrants face today.
Followers of Christ should have awareness and a kindred spirit to the unique struggles of foreigners because that is how the Bible describes us in this world. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave this warning: Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. Followers of Christ are foreigners on this planet and it is to shape how they live.
Increasingly, foreigners in America are looked upon with distrust. Their intentions are assumed questionable. Their language is different. Their values are different. They look different, dress different, worship different and behave different. So, at the least they are perceived suspicious; at the worst they are assumed dangerous.
Unfortunately, a vast number of Christians have forgotten the suspicion secular society has for them and have embraced suspicion for the refugee and immigrant. Isn’t it ironic? The very angst some Christians have for the foreigner in America is the intolerance secular society has for them.
It is spiritually dangerous to neglect, mistreat or shun a person because of a political or biblical principle. Let me give an example. Biblically and politically I am pro-life, but that does not give me permission to neglect, mistreat or shun the person God places in my path who does not hold my value on this issue. My political and biblical value of life does not give me a pass to be mean or hateful to a pro-choice person. The same holds true with immigration.
The Bible clearly teaches to follow the laws of government, and in America every person has the freedom to hold whatever political view that best aligns with their values. I do not condone illegal immigration nor will I encourage the local church to be a sanctuary church that harbors, conceals or shields illegal immigrants. These principles align with my biblical and political values. But there are other biblical teachings that influence my response to the refugee, immigrant and illegal immigrant in my part of the world. Let’s talk about that next time.