by John Preus
God chose Abraham to make a great nation out of him in order to bless all nations (Gen. 22:18). God commanded His people to be hospitable to those from other nations who were strangers in their own, since they themselves had been foreigners in Egypt (Ex. 22:21). And yet the days have now come that we no longer speak of the God who has brought us out of the land of Egypt (Jer. 23:7). No, our compassion toward foreigners does not flow from such a national experience anymore. Rather, we call on the God who gathers into His Church all the children of Abraham from the four corners of the world (Jer. 23:8).
We were born in sin, born into the devil’s kingdom (Ap. II, 46 ff.). This means that our own children are themselves foreigners born outside of God’s gracious salvation. But through Baptism, they become welcomed refugees and more. By their rebirth and adoption, they are naturalized citizens of Zion (LC IV, 23 ff.).
We ourselves are foreigners and pilgrims no less than our fathers of old (Heb. 11:13). Our home is not in this world, and so we must bear the ignominy and scorn and frequent disorientation of those who do not belong (John 15:19). Yet we must sojourn through. While we do, we are also urged to take care that while in the world we do not become of the world (1 Peter 2:9-12).
Throughout the Old Testament, God trains His people both to welcome foreigners and to guard against foreign influence. Our own care for our homes and congregations does both while providing the environment we need to welcome foreigners into our commonwealth as children of God and citizens of heaven. Obviously the many people who seek a new home here in America come to mind. But so too we should have in mind the children who are born as aliens of God’s grace. They are born to us – right into our homes.
A fantastic mission
How do we pursue it? I suppose one could say that we should try to have as many children as humanly possible, since these children will become automatic candidates for adoption as children of God. But we must remember that it is not we who create babies. It is God (Psalm 127). It is God who graciously grants them. It is a sin to purposely avoid children for the sake of mammon, but it is also a sin to expect God to give when He has chosen not to. The Church is his. He will create Christians according to His gracious will.
As surely as it remains our spiritual duty to protect our hearts and homes from worldly intrusions, it is our government’s civil duty to protect the homeland from foreign intrusions. Sometimes the government keeps foreigners out whom we would have loved to have the opportunity to evangelize. While we may disagree with [each other about] certain policies, it is not the Church’s calling to petition the government to let them in — no more than it is a Christian couple’s right to demand more children from God. We care for foreigners. We welcome them as Jesus would have us do just as surely as we baptize and train our own children. But it is not the Church’s duty to solicit their arrival by means of promoting public policy. It is the Church’s duty to preach the Gospel to all who need to hear it.
Near and far off
There may be honest disagreement among us about the necessity of certain measures to protect our homeland. A cautious approach on this matter does not translate into a hatred of foreigners or a disinterest in the Church’s mission to make disciples of all nations. This is a dangerous judgment to make. The injunction to be hospitable to foreigners in Scripture does not dictate a national policy of open borders for any nation anymore than the command to be fruitful and multiply requires women to undergo fertility treatment. What Scripture makes clear is that the Gospel is for all who are far off as well as for all who have been brought near. God grant us faithful preachers, healthy homes and patience so that we might be ready at all times for every opportunity that God bestows – whether through the womb or through immigration.
The Rev. John Preus is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa.