Loving the Sojourner Because God Loves the Sojourner

The terms, aliens, strangers and sojourners, were found throughout Scripture, and the Bible has a lot to say about them.

During the second half of the Obama administration and leading up to and through much of the Trump administration, immigrants were much in the news. The country was divided over how immigrants should be handled: whether we should build a wall and be more restrictive at the borders; how strictly we should enforce the laws; whether the laws should be changed; whether immigrants from certain countries should be restricted or prohibited; and so on.

Much of the public “discussion” was inflamed with political rhetoric. The tone was angry on both “sides”. It seemed that most people were talking past each other. People took extreme positions. The issues were couched in all or nothing language, as if the choices were to open the borders wide or shut them down completely.

As I talked with people privately on both “sides”, though, the tenor and tone was different. I didn’t speak with anyone who advocated open borders with no security or regulations. I didn’t speak with anyone who wanted to close the borders and keep everyone out. Most people really fell in the middle; it was the inflamed rhetoric that created the appearance that people were amassed at the polar extremes, like angry mobs with pitchforks in their hands.

The heat of the immigration discussion has died down, but the issues haven’t gone away. President Biden has undone most or all of the executive orders issued by President Trump to tighten up border security and other immigration controls, but the laws haven’t changed.

We can expect less and enforcement and efforts to , but the laws haven’t changed. The issues haven’t been resolved. Our immigration system is still not very workable, and issues are bound to boil to the surface again and demand attention.

I first seriously dug into the “issue” of immigration in the Obama administration. I was buffeted by the opposing winds of the political rhetoric, but I wanted to know how Christians should view immigration… if there was a definitive Christian position to be taken. Most Christians knew were well-versed in the political rhetoric, but I wasn’t hearing a biblically focused critique of the subject.

The Syrian refugee crisis was flooding the news and my conscience. I had to confess that I didn’t know where God stood. I didn’t know what the Bible said on immigration, if anything. I wanted to step back from the political fray and do my own searching of Scripture and meditation to let God speak to me on the issue.


I spent a weekend searching the Scriptures. I discovered that the Bible has much to say on the subject. The terms, aliens, strangers and sojourners, were found throughout Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and those terms permeated everything from start to finish.

I found that Scripture speaks very clearly and directly on subject and left me little room to wonder how we ought to respond to immigration issues in our current day. I wrote about it for the first time in November 12, 2014 in the article, Immigration: the Strangers Among Us.

God’s “view” of immigrants is closely aligned with how God relationship with Abraham and his descendants. We might forget that told Abraham his descendants “would be foreigners in a strange land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years”. (Gen. 15:13; and Acts 7:6) Thus, Abraham’s faith prompted him to live “like a stranger in a foreign country” (as did Isaac and Jacob) (Heb. 11:9)

“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Hebrews 11:10

In fact, this status of being an alien and a stranger on the earth applies to all people of faith in the past:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Hebrews 11:13-16

The status of God’s people as aliens and strangers was built into the very fabric of the their relationship with God and emphasized by centuries of living with that status.

Continue reading “Loving the Sojourner Because God Loves the Sojourner”

Opening Our Eyes and Ears to the Global Church to Gain Perspective

American evangelicals can gain perspective from other believers

I recently read an article by Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald, Waking Up After QAnon: How Can the Church Respond, posted by Christianity Today. The secondary headline is: Evangelicals disproportionately believed conspiracy theories in 2020. How do we recover?

I do not agree completely with everything in this article, but I think it is more “right” than wrong. The following assertion, for instance, certainly rings true to me:

“For years a segment of Christianity has sought to reclaim the United States of America as a Christian nation—or at the very least a nation founded upon Judeo-Christian values. However, they have, at the same time, witnessed the American culture (and, yes, what they see as American elites—media giants, big tech, politicians, and Hollywood) adopt a more secular and progressive agenda.”

I know this to be true because I “grew up” in Christianity in an atmosphere influenced by the Moral Majority and efforts to reclaim the Christian heritage of this country. It was a patriotic movement made “sacred” with Christian reference and fervor.

The community in which I was engaged out of college joined the effort. It seemed that some momentum was being generated in the direction of reclaiming the United States as a Christian nation…. at least while I remained in that community. When I left to go to law school, my perspective changed.

Looking back, I see that patriotic Christianity appeals to a certain narrative of faith and a desire to protect what is familiar and comfortable. It affirms a sense of place in the world as an American Christian who believes fully that the United States was blessed by God more than other nations in the world and stands alike a city set on a hill for the world to see.

While I think there may be some truth to that blessing from God, we shouldn’t confuse His blessing for a time (and for His greater purpose) with our own desires for prosperity, influence, protection of lifestyle, culture and familiar life. God raises kings, and he takes them down.

The patriotic movement in the church going back in time was influenced, in part, by the “prosperity gospel”. A certain exhilaration accompanies the thinking that we are part of a sacred movement of God’s people uniquely blessed with faith. It was a kind of manifest destiny for the church.

I imagine the 1st Century Jews saw the world similarly, though they didn’t have the prosperity or power of American Christians in 1st Century Judea. Their sense of being God’s people and being culturally “right”, however, made it difficult for them to accept that God loved Gentiles who didn’t observe Jewish rituals. It caused the first schism in the early church.

The American exceptionalism that is part of the allure of this politically-charged faith embraces modern Israel and the Jewish state. They see a kinship there, and I believe are prone to the same kind of error that the early church fell into.

Moving on from that community of my early walk in Christ and seeing faith and the world from different angles changed my perspective. I loved my time in the community of my early Christian years. They did many things right, and they were eager and earnest in their faith in refreshing ways, but I have come to see that God is bigger than our patriotic ideas of Him.

(Not that all the people in the church I attended wandered down that road. I know many of them still, and many of them did not get swept up in the patriotic fervor. They have adjusted and adapted, and their perspectives have changed also.)

The real point here is that God has a global and universal purpose. We are as much a part of that purpose as my brothers and sisters in China, or India or in the African American churches in the US.

That is not to say that everyone is right about the way they view the world from their own unique vantage points and perspectives, but it means I need to listen to them because they offer perspective that I have trouble seeing from my own, limited position. Perhaps, if we can all come together in the shared experience of Christ who died for all mankind and learn to set aside the things that divide us, we can catch a more global and universal glimpse of what God is doing in the world.

The Stetzer and MacDonald article makes the following statement regarding the headlong embrace of Donald Trump: “Christians need to understand how this foolishness not only hurts relationships in the local church and community but diminishes our witness. In such situations, our gospel witness is at stake and we cannot afford to be passive.” This is a major concern.

We may have trouble seeing the ways in which we have wandered off the narrow path unless we take time to listen to what other believes are saying.

Continue reading “Opening Our Eyes and Ears to the Global Church to Gain Perspective”

How Core Identity and Lived Experience Affects Our Views on Immigration in the Church

People of faith live as aliens and strangers on this earth because we look forward to a better country

What is your identity? Are you just a name? A member of a family? A citizen of a country?

We might give different answers in different contexts, to the question, depending on who is asking “Who are you”? To a certain extent, our identity flows out of our lived experiences.

I identify as a son, a member of a larger family with ancestors who settled in Naperville, IL after emigrating from the Alsace region of France/Germany. I identify as a father and a husband. I identify as the son of a father, who is a lawyer, and I identify as a lawyer myself.

I also identify as a born-again Christian, oen who was once lost and is now found, a follower of Jesus Christ in the process of being renewed in my mind conformed to the image of God.

How we identify ourselves in an ultimate sense reflects our core values and what is ultimately most important to us. Thus, if someone is asking me about my highest identity, or the basis of all identities, or what is my central identify out of which all other identities now flow, I would say I identity as a child of God and follower of Jesus.

Such is the effect of being born again: born into the family of God – born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8) It means that we now cry to God, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15) “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Gal. 4:6)

Our identity as children of God flows out of our experience of being born again. This identity is first and foremost. It is the identity that qualifies all other identities.

Or, at least it should….

Other identities flow from being born again. We no longer identify as being of the world, though we continue to live in the world. (John 17:16) We identify as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we identify as “aliens and strangers” in this world. (1 Pet. 2:11)

We know these things, but we might ask, “How much has this identify taken ahold of me?” And, “How much do I identify as a child of God, a citizen of heaven, no longer of this world, but an alien and stranger here?”

“Is this my experience? Do I live this out as my fundamental identity?”


The pull of the world is great. I have to be honest, myself: I experience long stretches of time in which I could not say with integrity that I am living as an alien and stranger in this world. I find myself identifying more closely than I should, perhaps, with things of this world. My experience doesn’t always reveal close alignment with my citizenship in heaven.

The following story really brought the reality of the effect of experience on personal identity home to me. It showed me that how we identify at the core of our being is tied into lived experience, and our lived experience reveals our hearts.

Continue reading “How Core Identity and Lived Experience Affects Our Views on Immigration in the Church”

Knowing Our Ultimate Destination, How Should Children of God Live in a Modern World that Is Foreign to Us?

We are part of a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages….

Followers of Christ are going to end up as part of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God….’” (Rev.7:9) Knowing how our journey ends as children of God, how should we live in this world?

Jesus introduced the kingdom of God to the world and invited the world to “enter” it. Just as the first century Jews were only a portion of the world to whom Jesus extended that invitation, we in the West and in the United States of America are only a portion of the global world Jesus invites to enter God’s kingdom. Jesus came, not to condemn, but to save the entire world full of people.

We might as well get used to the diversity now. I think it’s easy for us in the US to miss the fact that the global church today doesn’t look like us at all. The “average” Christian in the world today is a 22-year old brown female. Only 12% of the Christians in the world live in the North America (including Canada). Only 37.5% of the Christians in the world live in the “west”.

It’s a human tendency to separate from and even to demonize things that are foreign to us. It’s also a human tendency to embrace things that are familiar to us, even to our detriment. Jesus calls us to separate from the world, which is familiar to us, and to embrace God’s kingdom, which is foreign to us in our “flesh” (as Paul calls it).

Jesus calls us to reject the sin that is familiar to us in exchange for His righteousness that is foreign to us. Righteousness is not of us or from us; righteousness is of god and from God.

Thus, Christians are uniquely called to be different from the rest of the world who embrace the familiar (both things of the world, generally, and specific aspects of this worldly specifically, such as gender, race, nationality, etc.). We are called to separate from this world that is familiar to us and to embrace a world that is foreign (the spiritual realm into which we must be born again).

This model of Christian living is demonstrated by Paul and the disciples in carrying out the Great Commission. Paul said that he became all things to all people that he might win some.

Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers in his address on Mars Hill. (Acts 17) That means he read them and understood them. Thus, he was able to quote them appropriately and use those references that people knew to point them to God. This is because Paul embraced the fact that he was in the world, though he was not of the world.

This is what is means to carry out the Great Commission – to “go into all the world” making disciples. In the case of those disciples, God “encouraged” them with local persecution to scatter to Judea and and beyond. (We don’t always embrace what is foreign and unfamiliar to us willingly!)

We have the same command and challenge in our modern world. We don’t do these things easily or always willingly. it takes us way beyond our comfort levels that are defined by what we know and is familiar to us. When we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, though, he takes us into foreign territory!

One example of foreign territory is the modern worldview is informed by Critical Theory and and how it informs the world on issues of racial injustice. As members of a kingdom comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue, we need to be able to speak into issues of racial injustice

Continue reading “Knowing Our Ultimate Destination, How Should Children of God Live in a Modern World that Is Foreign to Us?”

Putting Denominational Disagreements in Perspective for the World and the Church

In a world in which the standard for disagreement is tolerance, we are called not just to tolerate each other, but to love each other deeply, from the heart.

J. Warner Wallace tackled the question, Do Denominational Disagreements Falsify Christianity? recently from an apologetic angle. A common challenge to Christianity is that we don’t all agree. If Christianity is true, why so much disagreement? Why so many denominations?

I like the way Wallace tackles the issue. He starts by observing that truth is often complex, and finite beings such as ourselves often disagree on the complexities. This is true not just in Christianity, but even in science. Wallace lists some of the various “theoretical camps” on the origin of the universe and the various types of atheists who don’t agree with each other in their atheism.

Wallace observes that disagreement doesn’t negate the truth. Truth remains truth whether people understand it or agree on it. Paul is saying the same thing, basically, when he says, “Let God be true though every one were a liar.” (Romans 3:4) We can’t judge God by the way people act, and we can’t judge the truth of Christianity by the way the Church acts.

On that last statement, I can imagine someone saying, “Now wait a minute! Shouldn’t we hold the Church to a higher standard? Shouldn’t the Church, of all institutions, be better than secular ones? If Christianity is true, shouldn’t we expect more harmony in the Church?

I actually agree with these criticisms. What about the inquisitions, and Christians burning other Christians at the stake for heresy and Puritans burning Puritans at the stake for supposedly being witches? That sounds like a lot of infighting for a group of people who are called to be “one in Christ”!

These are serious charges against the Church and Christianity. Wallace is right, that every human institution under the sun has disagreement, but shouldn’t the Church be different? If God is God and Christianity is true, shouldn’t the Church stand apart?

Jesus called his followers to be like a city set on a hill, like a beacon of truth. He said the world would know his followers by their love for one another, and he prayed for them to be one with each other as he and the Father are one.

We don’t have to dig very deep, or look very far or think very long before we find examples throughout history and in current events today that paint a very different picture of the Church. The Church, universal, is fragmented. Even denominations, within themselves, are divided. Division and dissention occurs in our local churches.

The skeptics put up a serious challenge to believers when they make the claim that our penchant for disagreement calls into question the truth that we stand for. How do we respond?

Yes, disagreements in the Church do not negate the truth, but how do we put them in perspective? How do they fit the truth that is revealed in Scripture? How do we reflect the love of God to the world as a fractured and broken Church?

I don’t believe I have a complete handle on these things, but I have some thoughts on how we can square the disagreement in the Church with Scripture and how we should respond as believers to this challenge.

Continue reading “Putting Denominational Disagreements in Perspective for the World and the Church”