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Immigrants, racism, and our attitude

Racism is a hot topic these days! Never a week goes past that we don’t hear or read of some racially-motivated attack or discrimination. It happens not only across the world, but locally as well.

In recent times, our world has become a smaller place. Advances in aviation mean that we can now travel colossal distances across the world in one 17.5-hour flight. The internet has opened our eyes and introduced us to people, places and cultures that, thirty years ago, we could only observe by reading National Geographic. We know more about each other, cultures have much more in common than they used to have, yet it seems that the cohabitation of different ethnic groups is fraught with as much tension as ever, if not more.

One reason why racism is so prevalent nowadays is that we tend to focus on the differences. While it’s true that we may have different skin tones, languages, dress, and customs, those aren’t the most important things. When we turn to the Bible, we don’t have to search too long to discover that, in God’s sight, and in light of eternity, these differences are of no importance at all.

·      In fact, the first thing we must remember is that God says that ‘there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:22,23). We are all sinners, on the one level. No one is better than anyone else.

·      In John 3:16, we read that ‘God so loved the world’. Not people of a certain skin tone, or a certain language – all people. The whole world. Ethnic differences aren’t even mentioned.

·      We also discover that ‘God our Saviour… will have all men [i.e. mankind] to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:3,4). God desires every single person to be saved.

·      Finally, as believers, we read that all racial barriers are removed and we are united in Christ. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).

It’s obvious that racism is not an option for the Christian. But did you know that God also has a great care for immigrants? In the Old Testament, He told the Israelites, ‘If a stranger sojourn with thee in the land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God’ (Leviticus 19:33,34). The Israelites were once the foreigners. They had experienced what it was like to live among people who were so very different to them. I’m sure most of us have at least a few ancestors who came from another country. I know many of my forefathers came from Scotland, and even some from France. They knew what it was like to pull up roots and move.

And while I’ve never lived in a foreign country, I have had the privilege of travelling to areas in other countries which are well off the beaten tourist track. I have been The Foreigner. The one who speaks a strange language, who looks very different to everyone else, and who just doesn’t get the customs of the country. Jokes have to be translated and explained. I try to ignore the curious stares as I walk down the street. Watch what everyone else is doing in social settings in case I make a faux pas. It’s a pretty humbling business, but it’s given me a greater respect for those who have arrived in our own country, who’ve had the courage to leave all they’ve known in search of a better life.

So, let’s keep these things in mind. That there is no difference, God loves every single person and desires their salvation, and we ought to care for the ‘stranger’, the immigrants. Let’s not make it any harder for them. Put yourself in their shoes. If you have opportunity, reach out and show kindness. And perhaps you’ll discover that that person who seems so different is actually just like you after all!


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