In recent years, God has been using the growing globalization of the world to generate a higher rate of immigration to North America. People of all ethnic backgrounds are migrating away from their home countries seeking asylum, refuge, education or a better life in the Western Hemisphere. North Carolina cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville, Winston-Salem and others are now saturated with internationals. God, in His sovereign will, has seen fit to bring the nations to North America.
[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God and in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27)
God has brought those who were once far from any access to the gospel and has placed them here, just beyond our doorstep. How should we as followers of Jesus Christ respond to the sovereign work of God bringing the nations to us?
Love God, love your neighbor
In Mark a scribe came up to Jesus and asked Him a genuine question of the heart: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28). Jesus responded to him by quoting from two places in the Old Testament, “The most important is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:28-31).
There’s a similar conversation in Luke where a teacher of the law, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story is familiar to many — a Samaritan man passed by a beaten man and saw that he had been left for dead, so he showed great compassion for him. He bandaged his wounds, placed him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The Samaritan used all of his resources to take care of this man — a complete stranger of a different ethnic, cultural and religious background (Luke 10:25-37).
After Jesus told the teacher this parable, He turned the tables on him and asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36). Of course, “the one who showed him mercy” was a neighbor to this man. Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
God, in His sovereign will, has seen fit to bring the nations to North America.
The neighbors around you
When Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself in the gospels of Mark and Luke, He sets it up as the second most important teaching of the scriptures. In fact, He quotes directly from God as He commands His people, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:35).
God has brought the nations as strangers to sojourn among us as representatives of God’s people in North Carolina, and He has commanded us to love them as we love ourselves — that we might be neighbors to them as the Samaritan was a neighbor to the beaten man left for dead.
How should you treat the Nepalese family whose children will be in class with your kids this fall? Or the Afghan entrepreneur opening an eyebrow threading shop next door to where you buy your favorite latte every Sunday afternoon? There might be a Thai man founding a Buddhist temple in your neighborhood, or a growing Arab community that meets at the local Chick-fil-a once a month. Don’t forget about the South Asian mosque being constructed down the street from your church building or the Hindu Indian family that lives across the cul-de-sac. Whoever your neighbors are with whatever ethnic background and belief system they bring, remember that in God’s sovereignty He has brought them to your backyard. What are you going to do about it?