Monday, 25 January 2021
Is He Welcome Here?
By: Ong Hwee Soo
In my Devotional a fortnight ago, I quoted the standard UNHCR definition of ‘refugee’. Now, with the growing migrant problem round the globe, the gamut of terminology includes: aliens, asylum-seekers, diaspora, displaced people (internal and external), ethnic minority, forced or involuntary migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, stateless, trafficked, undocumented and uprooted people.
In various English translations of the Bible, we read of ‘aliens’, ‘strangers’, ‘sojourners’, foreigners’, and ‘travellers’, mostly in the context of how we should treat these people. The root word for these various expressions is the original Hebrew term for ‘stranger’. The Hebrew language has three different words for ‘stranger’: ‘zar’, ‘nochri’ and ‘ger’.
The most common ‘stranger’ word used in the Old Testament is ‘ger’ which connotes ‘guest’ or ‘sojourner’, who had God’s special attention. The Israelites were commanded to love and care for them because they themselves were strangers in Egypt.
Deut. 10:19 , “Therefore, love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (NKJ)
Lev.19:10 , “You shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. (ESV)
Lev. 24:22 , “You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD.” (ESV).
Exo. 22:21, ” You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (NKJ)
It is with purpose that Jesus included ‘stranger’ in His litany of needs in Matthew 25:35-36 : “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcome me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Being a refugee Himself, Jesus understood what it meant to be a ‘stranger’ during His human life on earth. In the plethora of migration terminology, ‘immigrants’ is defined as “those who out of their own volition move to another country for any of a host of reasons and usually petition for lengthy or permanent residence.”
Jesus, the Immigrant-God Incarnate, intentionally stepped out of the splendour of glory to settle in a sin-shattered earth to suffer and die for the human race. The Saviour was not born in the comfort of a palace, but suffered an uncomfortable, unsanitary birth in a stable. He voluntarily left His divine throne above to suffer the human throes below. In His earthly sojourn, Jesus experienced the sufferings of hunger, homelessness and rejection.
The Good News , however, is that in His earthly pilgrimage, Christ proved Himself as Compassion Personified , feeding the hungry, healing the sick, restoring the social outcasts as well as welcoming foreigners. The Immigrant-God Incarnate is Immanuel: God with us.
In the myriad of migrant needs in our midst, Christ is beckoning us to show His compassion to needy foreign students, harassed/helpless refugees, undocumented immigrants in detention centres, the stateless children, hapless migrant workers and the list goes on.
When a Nigerian student, midway in his studies at a local university, started attending our church, our former Lead Pastor invited him home for dinner as well as some other fellowship meals during his stay here. When he visited a Sunday Care Group (CG), before the MCO, the members made him feel welcome and helped him out during the MCO. Our Fellowship Deaconess and Lead Pastor took care of him during the difficult lockdown period. Another Sunday CG has been visiting three Myanmarese refugee families every month since the RMCO with some monthly financial aid for each of the single-mother family. A Friday CG presented a washing machine to a Zomi refugee single-mother family of five last Christmas. Our Youth Ministry and College-University Group jointly through their Christmas GiveBack Project raised funds for a Chin refugee primary school.
These are seemingly small ways of welcoming strangers in our midst. But, to reiterate a quotation by Dr Bill Wilson of MetroWorld Child Ministry, “Big Doors Open on Small Hinges.” May our doors swing open to a ‘Welcome Ministry’. Welcoming is more than being friendly. It is a lifestyle of prioritizing God’s mission to “make disciples of all nations” . Welcoming entails developing genuine cross-cultural friendships, selflessly serving and always ready to share Christ with ‘strangers’.
In the Matthew 25 passage quoted above, Jesus is holding up to us a pattern for practical self-giving love. Subsequently in verse 40, Jesus entreats us with, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Do we recognize Christ in the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the ones who lack clothing, the sick and the prisoner? What friendships and opportunities of service might we find this year?
Let’s Live the Life with Welcoming Lifestyle.
Dear Merciful Father, as You open doors for us this year, help us Lord, to gladly welcome opportunities of service with hearts of compassion and hands ready for action.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
两周前的《灵修》中，我引用了联合国难民署对 “难民” 的标准定义。现在，随着全球移民问题的日益严重，各种术语包括：外国人、寻求庇护者、散居国外的人、流离失所者(国内和国外)、少数民族、被迫或非自愿移民、非法移民、难民、无国籍、被贩运、无证件和背井离乡的人。
在圣经的各种英译本中，我们看到了 “异族”、“客旅”、“旅居者”、“外国人” 和 “旅人”，主要是关于我们应该如何对待这些人。这些不同表达的词根是希伯来语中 “客旅” 的原始术语。希伯来语中的 “客旅” 有三个不同的词：“zar”、“nochri” 和 “ger”。
“旧约”中最常见的 “客旅” 一词是 “ger”，暗含着 “宾客” 或 “旅居者” 之意，他们受到上帝的特别关注。以色列人被命令要爱护他们，因为他们自己在埃及也是寄居的。
耶稣在马太福音25:35-36的一连串需要中加入 “客旅” 是有目的的：“因为我饿了，你们给我吃；渴了，你们给我喝；我作客旅，你们留我住；我赤身露体，你们给我穿，我病了，你们看顾我，我在监里，你们来看我。”
耶稣在世上时，身为难民的祂，明白 “客旅” 的含义。在众多的移徙术语中，“移民” 被定义为 “那些出于各种原因自愿移居另一个国家的人，通常会申请长期或永久居留。”
这些是我们欢迎与接待在我们中间寄居者尽的绵薄之力。但是，重申 “大都会国际儿童事工”（MetroWorld Child Ministry）的比尔•威尔逊博士的话：“大门在小铰链上打开。” 愿我们向 “接待事工” 敞开大门。接待不仅仅是友善；这是一种把上帝的使命放在首位的生活方式，那就是 “使万民作门徒”。接待需要发展真正的跨文化友谊，无私地服务，并随时准备与 “客旅” 分享基督。