Love Undocumented


I believe Christians want to engage immigrants in their communities—as well as the national immigration conversation— in ways that uphold the Bible and honor the dignity of people from all over the world. But navigating the vehement tones of the current immigration debate can be unsettling. How do we resist the political fear-mongering? How do we balance our desire to love our neighbor with real questions and concerns about the ways immigration affects us? How do we talk with sisters and brothers in the church about what has become a “political” question—even and perhaps especially if we disagree?

Growing up, my generation was warned about “stranger danger”—the idea that someone unknown might very well be a threat. Unfortunately, I never revisited this childhood concept, or developed a more robust and mature approach to encountering the stranger. I’m not sure my friends or other Christians I knew had either. Lack of relationship is a breeding ground for fear, and fear and anxiety pervade the conversation about immigrants and refugees.

I find great comfort in the many Scriptures in which the people of God are reminded not to be afraid. Over and over, when God bursts onto the scene, the first command is to “fear not.” When God shows up in a vision to Abram, the initial dialogue in Genesis 15:1 is “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” When Gabriel visits Mary to tell her she’s carrying the Christ child, she is confused by his greeting. He immediately responds, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Hagar, Joshua, the disciples who see Jesus walk on water: all these people of God and more are reassured that, though they are encountering the unfamiliar, the audacious, the overwhelming, they don’t need to be afraid.

So how do we welcome strangers in a world that defaults to fear? When the divine breaks into our day-to-day lives, will we panic and miss God’s presence? To avoid the isolation that cultivates fear of the Other, we have a pressing need for community. Relationships across cultural barriers are an antidote to fear. When presented with risk and fear of the unknown, we have the opportunity to choose our response. We can be wary or be welcoming.