In the story of the Good Samaritan, we are reminded that loving our neighbor means paying attention to the vulnerable and crossing the street to welcome others despite existing racial, cultural or religious differences.
Immigrants to the U.S. have been in the spotlight, particularly in the last few weeks. The politics addressing border enforcement, internal security and refugee resettlement have garnered a great deal of attention. And Christians are not in agreement on how the federal government should address immigration. However, I believe we can agree that we are called to love our neighbors, regardless of their country of origin, religious affiliation or immigration status. Here are five simple ways to stand up for our immigrant and refugee neighbors in our day-to-day life.
Welcome them as neighbors.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own private worlds. U.S. individualism, combined with technology or other distractions, means we often walk down the street without much thought to those passing by. However, many immigrants, especially those from more collective cultures or smaller communities with slower paces, may feel isolated in their new context.
Language and culture barriers, not to mention encounters with fear, mistrust or overt racism, can make immigrating to the U.S. feel very lonely. One of the easiest ways to love our immigrant neighbors is to simply smile and say hello. For those who feel unwelcome, this small gesture can be a gift.
Show radical hospitality.
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:2) We have an opportunity to welcome newcomers and show them the love of Christ through our hospitality. The friendly act of a dinner invitation, birthday party, backyard s’mores or any other gathering may make a bigger impact than you think.
According to the Billy Graham Center, less than one in ten immigrants will ever be welcomed into the home of an American. Initiating relationship through hospitality can be a prime opportunity to represent Christ’s love.
Support them through the challenge of resettlement.
Scripture tells us repeatedly to care for the orphans, the widows and the foreigners in our midst. Many immigrants face real challenges related to poverty, language barriers, lack of family networks and more. Serving our immigrant neighbor may look like offering a ride or helping to complete paperwork, or it may mean a listening ear during a difficult season. Thousands of immigrants are held in detention centers, and ministries such as El Refugio in Georgia walk in the Church’s long history of prison ministry by caring for families of detainees and visiting people in the detention center to offer support and care.
Pray for them consistently.
We can love our neighbors by praying for them. Politics aside, we can offer supplication for the safety of immigrants and their families. We can pray they might experience God’s love and peace in the midst of their circumstances and grow closer to God each day. The Evangelical Immigration Table offers 40 days of Scripture and prayer to guide readers through the Word and into prayer for immigrants.
Speak up in marginalizing conversations.
All people are made in God’s image. Private conversation or public rhetoric that dehumanizes a group of people demands prophetic voices to stand up and speak out. Our integrity testifies to our love for our neighbors as we seek to speak with respect toward others at all times. Lively debate about policies is different than targeted declarations that devalue God’s image in another. After all, “[God] ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
Regardless of where individual Christians land on the political spectrum, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s not optional. In 2014, immigrants made up a little more than 13 percent of the U.S. population. Immigrants are our neighbors, and we have a greater opportunity in this day to love our neighbors as Jesus would.