Why we care.
Welcoming the Gerrim — the immigrant — is one of the most often repeated commandments in scripture, with only the imperatives “do not be afraid” and "worship only the Lord your God” appearing more frequently.
Let me say that again.
Welcoming and caring for the immigrant is the third most frequently repeated command in the bible. And in these scriptures, God commands his people to love and protect the vulnerable immigrants.
God not only loves immigrants, he also established specific rules to protect them. God’s commands were given to ensure that they would have the opportunity to work such that they could meet their own basic needs. And so God commanded the Israelites not to harvest the entirety of their fields, but to leave the edges (Lev 23:22) “for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you”. They are the Ger’im, people simply looking to establish the sense of home we all inherently crave and often take for granted. They are people who, biblically speaking, are deserving of the same protection and opportunity and accountability as any others who are native born. And whenever we stand in solidarity with those who are on the underside of power — with street people, with modern slaves or survivors of commercial exploitation, with refugees, with those who are disabled, with the uneducated, the illiterate, the struggling single parent, the unemployed, or the immigrant, we are joining God to work for justice in the world.
“You do not have to believe what we do to receive help from us. We want to help simply because of what we believe -- and that is enough for us.”
— Founders, Open Door Immigration Services
In the same way, when we became foreigners to God, enslaved to our sin, and when our shame caused us to become strangers to Him, (Isaiah 57:15) the Lord Almighty, the High and Holy One who lives in a high and holy place, left his heavenly abode and came down to meet us where we are. In Jesus, God himself made (John 1:14) his home among us.
Now think about this.
Just think about what this means. It means that God almighty became an immigrant. God’s Son gave up his status and glory and position and put himself in a vulnerable state among a people, culture, custom and world that was not his own — but one he longed to make his own.
God’s Son became an immigrant.
In Jesus, God made his home among us — he immigrated to us — and then he went to the cross in order to die for the world he had immigrated to, just to put all of our sin and shame to death so that we wouldn’t have to. That’s the promise of the Gospel, that when Jesus immigrates to our world, he offers freedom and new life and a new home. One that bursts forth right in the middle of the old and broken one. In Christ, you are home, with all the safety and love that home implies. And what’s so amazing about this passage, is that immediately after God’s people are set free, he calls them — us — you and me — to be people who bring that same promise of home to the world.
We’ve been invited to show compassion to those who are suffering. To sacrifice for those in need, to open our hearts and roll up our sleeves and pour out our bodies and blood for those caught in subversive, exploitive systems that keep them down.
We’ve been invited to bless those on the underside of power by acknowledging their dignity and helping society recognize it, too.
We’ve been invited to go to the margins, to the parts of our city littered with broken bottles and broken families and to empower the powerless to walk in freedom.
We’ve been invited to bring care to the sick, justice to those who are lacking it, honor to the poor, restoration to God’s creation, and love for the forsaken.
Because as Deuteronomy reminds us, we’re the they.
WE were the slaves. We were the widows. We were the orphans. We were the foreigners. We were the poor, the broken, the alienated, and in the midst of that, (Rom 5:8) God chose to immigrate to us just to demonstrate his love to us and build a new home among us.
And every time we use this gift of freedom to work for others’ freedom, to pour out what’s been poured into us, we are reminded that we were slaves, that we were hopeless, that we were in bondage, but because of what God did for us in Jesus, we’re all welcomed home now.