Welcoming the stranger

By Jessica Connor

In today's highly politicized, highly polarized dialogue about immigration, it's critical that we as Christians think about the issue from a Biblical perspective.

That s exactly what bishops of the South Carolina ecumenical group LARCUM attempted to do at their annual dialogue in October. Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor of the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, along with Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, gathered at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, to discuss Immigration and Radical Hospitality.

With open hearts and minds, and plenty of prayer, they examined how immigration is treated in Scripture: What does the Bible say? What does it mean to welcome the stranger? Do we follow man s law or God s law? (That s easy.)

Featured speaker the Rev. Joan M. Maruskin, of Church World Service, said the church must be a leading voice in immigration. Calling the Bible our own personal immigration handbook and a migrant narrative from beginning to end, she said the Bible is crystal-clear about our directive to care for the alien along with the widow and the orphan. Make no mistake “ that directive is repeated over and over again throughout the Bible.

The more than 50 present at the dialogue volunteered stories of migration throughout Scripture: Abraham, Noah, Jacob and his sons, Ruth and Naomi. Maruskin noted that, today, Moses would be considered a criminal alien and Jesus himself was a refugee whose family fled for their lives to a strange land.

Biblical hospitality is welcoming the stranger, Maruskin said, recalling a conversation with an immigrant who said it s easy to compare the plight of undocumented workers here with the plight of the Hebrews. Are our actions as a nation closer to that of the Hebrews or the Pharaohs?


Instead of paying attention to fear, misinformation and certain political commentators when it comes to immigration, we need to shut out all those other voices and pay attention to the ultimate voice in all things: God s.

God told us what we need to do regarding immigrants. All we need to do is read His words, open our hearts and do His will.

Let s show some radical Biblical hospitality and welcome the stranger “ no matter what.

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