“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Leviticus 19:33-34
“God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:18-19
In the coming week (October 19-20), Heartland and First Arabic Presbyterian Church will host David Barnhart, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, who will show two of his short films about the immigrant and refugee experience in the United States. There will be a panel of immigrants and refugees who will offer their own experiences as they respond to the challenges of integrating into our communities. This will be a great opportunity to hear their stories and gain a deeper understanding of their reality. We hope you will be able to participate in this conversation.
It is striking how often in scripture the treatment of foreigners is a signpost of faithfulness for those who seek to be the children of God. Besides the two quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures above, there are continual calls to treat the immigrant with generosity and hospitality. Many Biblical scholars argue that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed not because of a purported acceptance of homosexuality (a misreading and distortion of the story) but because they were not welcoming of the stranger in their midst. The gospel of Matthew tells the story of Jesus and his family fleeing to another country because of oppression and threats to their lives. (Matthew 2:13-23) The Bible is filled with imperatives to treat refugees with compassion and grace.
Our hope is to move beyond the divisive political rhetoric so that we may find our common humanity in the stories we share across race and class and country. David Barnhart understands his work as a storytelling ministry. In hearing the stories, we discover a commonality and empathy that helps us see not an enemy but a fellow human being. This event is truly, as it is named, a call and an invitation: “Won’t You Be my Neighbor?”
Grace and Peace,