The other day, I picked up on the theme of “the foreigner in your midst.” There is a Biblical principle for how we treat, love and care for immigrants. I want to push that a little bit further because, as the campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade realised, when someone has put their trust in Jesus, they are not a foreigner in our midst, they are part of God’s people, they are part of the family.
I have been struck over the past week by the conversation about the Windrush generation and the point that keeps being made that these are not immigrants who need to apply for British Citizenship but because of the situation need to be fast-tracked. These are British Citizens. If our politicians need to and can say that about the Windrush generation, then even more should we be remembering that people who have put their trust in Jesus are citizens of heaven, no matter what their ethnic background and immigration status is.
So, the challenge is as to whether or not our churches do reflect that? Here are some things to think through.
1. Have we been guilty of racism by what we have said and how we have treated people in our churches?
2. Have we failed to challenge racism seriously enough and to treat it as the sin it is?
3. Have we been silent – or have we acted and spoken when people in our church families have faced the cruelty of the immigration system, abusive language or discrimination at work?
4. Do we expect that if people come and join us that they must change to conform to how we do things?
5. Do we have expectations for leadership that arise not from the Bible but from our cultural norms.
6. Have we created a culture where the presumption is that our churches are primarily for white British people and that others are guests (sometimes welcome sometimes unwelcome)?
I want to pick up on the last point because I’ve seen comments on social media recently about the importance of giving power away from the majority culture to minority cultures. There is a point there but I still feel that it misses something. Power is not something that we have to give away because its not something we ever truly owned. There is the legitimate Biblical authority of elders which is the authority to shepherd by feeding with God’s word and guarding against error, that is all.
Where there has been racism and prejudice, where we have put our culture before the Gospel, where we have failed to welcome, we should repent and ask for forgiveness both from those we have hurt and from God.