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Christians Can't Be Too Busy to Love Their NeighborsMark Hesseltine / Flickr

Christians Can't Be Too Busy to Love Their Neighbors

Jan 7 2014
Amid immigration reform efforts, taking God’s call to community more seriously and urgently.

Even more, listening to stories has encouraged evangelical leaders to be at the forefront of immigration reform to push for a path toward legal status for undocumented immigrants. The Pray4Reform initiative is pushing us to view immigrants with biblical values of compassion, justice, and hospitality.

As a storyteller and listener, this speaks to my heart deeply. In the service-learning classes I teach, both in Ohio and in Oklahoma, at Christian and secular universities, I often see my students change when they read personal narratives about a particular group we are studying, and when they get to work alongside people who are often very different than themselves. Welcoming The Stranger was particularly helpful for Christian students, because it insists that we make an informed opinion, based on Scripture, about our responsibilities to care for immigrants. The transformation of thought and heart starts when we begin to see our neighbors, classmates, and co-workers as real people, as our brothers and sisters.

Living in community means that we remember that there is one church "one Body, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4:4-6) and that "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). When we think about social injustices and needs in our community—the neglect of children, a lonely elderly person, domestic violence, even an unfair immigration policy—loving our neighbors will lead us into advocacy, because we can no longer drive up the driveway and close our garage door, close our office door or put our earphones on; we have become a part of their lives.

Living in community offers the opportunity to truly engage in the lives of others, to care for others and to let others care for us. Living in community is not charity; while we can provide a basic need for a neighbor—both our actual neighbors and the people with whom we spend most of our time such as co-workers and classmates—we will not truly build honest relationships if we only remain on the sidelines. The Bible tells us, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Heb. 13:2) Not only are we in the position to offer respite for our neighbors in need, Scripture tells us to look at our neighbors as blessings in our own lives.

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