Russell Mann, Guest Writer
My desire to love immigrants comes from Jesus. Christians serve a God who is love (1 John 4:8) and who displays His love for all people by dying for them (Rom. 5:8). Now, we are called to display that same sacrificial love to all people (Eph. 5:1-2)—including and especially immigrants (Matt. 25:35). Not only are Christians commanded to love the foreigner throughout Scripture (Deut. 10:19), but we have a unique motivation to do so: we, too, are far from our true home and live in the tension of two cultures (1 Pet. 1:1, Phil. 3:20). Also, we know that one day we will enjoy God’s love forever with people from every culture (Rev. 7:9). As Scripture has convicted me about God’s love for immigrants, I have tried to figure out how to best extend that love to them. Here are 5 ways I have discovered.
Look for them. Indifference is truly the opposite of love. How can you love someone if you don’t notice them? Even though our communities are full of immigrants, it’s easy to ignore those who look or speak differently than us. However, the gospel invites us to recognize immigrants as people made in the image of God who Christ died for. Knowing Jesus’ love for all people makes us realize that immigrants who happen to cross our path have been placed there by God (Acts 17:26-27) and it also challenges us to intentionally seek out immigrants as Jesus sought us (Luke 19:10). Look for any place (such as stores, restaurants, libraries, or ESL classes) where immigrants are present in your community so that you might love them as Jesus has loved you. My wife met one of her best friends at her hair salon and I met one of mine at a Chinese restaurant!
Listen to their story. In the gospels, we usually learn people’s backstories before they are encountered by Jesus. Knowing where people have come from and what they have been through helps us empathize with them and understand how they need God’s love. Taking time to listen to immigrants helps tear down prejudices we may have and cultivates compassion in our hearts. Hearing immigrants’ stories has stretched and strengthened my own faith. Their resilience and kindness in the face of homesickness and hardships are an example I yearn to follow.
Let them into your home AND let them host you. As you build friendships with immigrants, share your homes with one another. Many immigrants yearn to be invited into an American’s home. It is no accident that Jesus shared so many meals with people. Hospitality is a great way to show immigrants that they are welcome here and loved by God. These immigrants will usually return and drastically exceed your hospitality! Immigrants love to invite you into their culture by inviting you into their home (and stuffing your face with amazing food!). Their acts of hospitality are life-giving to them and a gift to you.
Learn their language. Many immigrants speak a different language. Rather than seeing this as an obstacle to overcome, why not see it as an opportunity to display your love for them? I have seen firsthand how my wife’s knowledge of Spanish has opened numerous doors to love immigrants that one would not have otherwise. Learning even a few words of an immigrant’s home language lets them know that you value them and that their culture is welcome here. As you struggle to speak their language (which they know perfectly), laughter is shared, humility is cultivated, and love is felt.
Light up when you talk about them. First, tell immigrants how their presence has enriched your life and our country. Sadly, many immigrants only hear about how their presence is unwanted and unhelpful. Christians can counter these lies by speaking words of encouragement. Furthermore, deliberately speak to others (family, friends, co-workers, other Christians) about how immigrants have enriched your life. These people may not normally interact with immigrants out of fear or other misconceptions. You can love immigrants by advocating for their value in your everyday conversations.
“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”—Jesus