How should the American Christian view immigrants today? –by Chef Wayne Stolt
By Wayne Stolt–
We as Americans are a mixed blend of flavors. We are like a well-flavored salsa that’s been created with an assortment of ingredients providing texture, flavor, and color, a diverse population that offers its own unique profile layer as one might savor the personality that is acquired the more one tastes of it. Just as the variety of ingredients supplements the ultimate experience as a whole as if you tasted a salsa that developed new flavors as you chewed it, so does the influx of ethnicities within our culture ‘salsify’ our society.
Our country is based on this idea by promoting an array of freedoms found in our national constitution. Much thought was given and often debated by our forefathers as they framed these concepts into an articulate document. In order to attain these freedoms people emigrated from Europe to find them. Most of those originally came for their religious freedom, to worship God in the manner they would choose and not how a government official would demand. Thereafter the nation saw a continued flow of a variety of people groups entering our borders. As our country expanded so did the word spread across the world of the opportunities to build new homes and communities. The New England coast began as the stepping stone, but in the late 19th century Ellis Island opened and served over twelve million immigrants until 1952. Our nation seemed to extend arms open wide for immigrants as seen in this quote:
"Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Yet today our society is divided in its view on what is appropriate. Many claim that true safety in our current state of national affairs can only be found when we enforce safer borders from incoming immigrants with an emphasis on true assimilation for those who are here. This is a brand of nationalism supporting the idea that incoming immigrants are expected to learn English whereby they can speak and write it sufficiently to thrive in our society which many are espousing. Conversely, others suggest that we need to stand on our international character, reaching out to refuges and immigrants who are troubled and in need, to allow them to freely come to our country. The United States has such a blended population that those who dream to come or even have found themselves lost should still be given the chance to come. Once here, they would surely find a certain amount of peace among a community that is currently flourishing.
But whatever your perspective on the current status of immigration we still have a large population of immigrants residing here, working to better themselves. How do you view them? Do you see them with distrust and disdain and wish they would return to their homeland? Or do you welcome them with an open heart to your city? How do you even know if they are here legally or not? Are some doing illegal activities? Are they working with proper documentation? Are they taking jobs from legal Americans? Are they only visiting or residents? Do you or someone you know have these questions? Is it wrong to pose these questions? Do these facts actually matter in how we treat them? I mean, are we expected to provide a level of decorum and civility in our culture and society? An even bigger question for Christians is, if there is a certain dignity we expect in American society, is there a different standard for Christians? Does God expect us to be different or better? How would we define ‘better’? A wrist band from a few years ago asked, “What would Jesus do?”
Let’s begin with answering this question, “What would Jesus do?” In the beginning of His ministry it seemed like Jesus's main focus was on the Jews. He sent the disciples out in the beginning only within the country, and not any neighboring countries. Why not? Well, at the given time His main focus was within Israel as seen in the gospel of Matthew 2:4-6 when He tells the disciples to go only to the “lost sheep of Israel”. When given various circumstances, He addresses these with grace, compassion, and great insight. One example we see is with the Canaanite woman whom he encountered in what is modern-day Lebanon. When she sees Jesus she strangely recognizes him and asks him for deliverance for her daughter who is demon possessed (gospels of Matthew 15 and Mark 7). She demonstrates her faith by imploring him as "Lord" and "Son of David" (Messiah), and even though she has to make her request three times her faith was rewarded and Jesus delivers her daughter.
In another instance recorded in the gospel of John chapter 4, Jesus goes out of his way to Samaria where the people are purposefully avoided by the Jews. Yet Jesus intentionally took that route to stop at the well where he must have known he would meet this Samaritan woman. It is noteworthy that he even engaged her in conversation since no average Jew would have done that. In their discussion He posed critical questions to her that led her to understand who He is and that He will provide water by which she would never thirst again. He demonstrated real love for her and she too recognized him as Messiah. He also knew things about her life that He could not have known, and she was so overwhelmed that she shared her story with the whole town. This moved Jesus to stay in her town and minister to the others she had shared with, and many became believers in Him. Lastly, at the end of the gospel of Matthew Jesus gives the Great Commission to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” (28:18-19) So although His focus began within Israel, Jesus in fact mandates for all believers to go to other cities and countries.
Jesus demonstrates this love for the immigrant, but how does the Old Testament address it? I mean, does God illustrate for us any expectations as He is speaking to the Israelites? Yes, God actually addresses the issue a number of times. He wanted His people to show love for the foreigner, bearing in mind that the Jews were once foreigners in the land as well.
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. –Deuteronomy 10:17-19
Some might consider this a controversial issue, but God commanded His people not to deprive the aliens. So, God expected His people to place their faith and put it into action.
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. –Deuteronomy 24:17-18
Not only did God want His people not to deprive the alien, He also wanted to them show mercy and love. He expected them to leave the extra in the fields for those in need.
When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. –Deuteronomy 24:21-22
In addition to showing mercy, the people were commanded to show the love in an eternal manner, where they would train others to fear the Lord and follow Him.
Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people–men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” –Deuteronomy 31:10-13
So, it is not just a matter of mercy but actually love for their fellow man to bring them into a close relationship with the one true God.
It is most interesting that God is unchanging. God the Father and God the Son both demonstrate for us that all peoples need His love. Just as the Good Samaritan showed love to a stranger (gospel of Luke chapter 10) we also must show love to the unlovable. What did Jesus say were the two greatest commandments? After loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Often our neighbor is a different ethnicity and one toward whom we may struggle with the challenge. But that is what we are commanded to do. Kindness and mercy to the alien around us is certainly what God expects, but even more than that it is by demonstrating true love by sharing the Gospel with them.
About the writer:
Wayne Stolt resides in the metro Detroit area. He has over thirty years experience working in the foodservice business, ranging from quick service, casual dining, fine dining, health care, catering, and teaching. Wayne has a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from Eastern Michigan, and a Master’s degree in teaching from Wayne State University. He is certified in ServSafe and also teaches it. He is certified as a ProStart Educator, with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, and a Certified Hospitality Educator, through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.
Wayne is currently working with the American Culinary Federation to earn the Secondary Culinary Educator Certification. He currently teaches at Riverview Community High School in the Hospitality/Culinary Career Technical Program which is part of the Down River Career and Technical Consortium. He also teaches adjunct courses at Henry Ford Community College in their Hospitality Management/Culinary Studies Department.
Wayne enjoys bicycling outdoors and nonchalantly studying service and food while eating out. He also devours storytelling via movies or novels. His recent novel, Crossing the Line is his first book but he hopes to carry on the story of Porter’s House Boat Restaurant with new main characters.
Wayne became a Christian at a young age but he rededicated his life to Christ ten years ago. He is a member of Praise Baptist Church in Plymouth, Michigan. His prayer is that his novel and his other writings serve as a witness for the gospel and glorifies God.
Visit Chef Wayne's website here: chefstoryteller.com
Wayne is the author of a captivating novel called Crossing the Line, An Hispanic Journey
This story follows the journey of two young, Hispanic immigrant men from Guatemala to America. It chronicles the struggles they face leaving their homes, travelling through Mexico, then working in a restaurant in Michigan. They dream of making more of themselves than what they could in their homeland. They also hope to provide financial assistance for their family back home. These desires grow with a pervasive ache within them. In the process, both learn more about who they are as they acclimate to daily life in the restaurant business. Ultimately, lines are drawn and choices must be made that affect their new life here in America, the land of their dreams. Crossing the Line
You can buy the ebook or paperback edition here: Crossing the Line on Amazon