No one who belongs to Christ is entirely at home in this world. We're made for something better – a renewed earth in perfect relationship with God. There we will be a part of a beautiful, diverse community worshipping in unity around the throne
I cannot begin to picture that many people from all different cultures worshipping Jesus, but I’m certainly looking forward to it because that is when I’ll be truly home.
And we can enjoy a little of that goal now. We live in a mobile world. People from all over the globe are arriving in London every week.
A Welcome That Spans the Bible
The Old Testament often has a bit of a reputation. People can assume that the Israelites were always at war with people from other lands, but in fact, they had a very nuanced relationship with the people around them. Different Hebrew words are used to describe the various categories.
Economic migrants: idol-worshippers temporarily in Israel on business. They were people who brought their own culture, philosophy, and agenda, traded and moved on.
Enemies: often used as tools of judgment to punish Israel’s rebellion.
Assimilating refugees: people who had made Israel their home for political or social reasons and integrated into the religious community.
Non-assimilating refugees: people who had fled to Israel but decided not to integrate into the worshipping life.
Why was Israel so astonishingly welcoming to people in need? Because the Israelites knew what it was to be oppressed in Egypt, to flee their homes, and have no place to be settled or secure.
But that’s not the only reason. It was also because God is the God of the whole world, not just of a small nation. His promises and plans have always been to bless people far and wide.
So throughout the Torah, we see laws laid down to preserve the employment rights of those from other lands (Deuteronomy 24:14), to enable them to access charity with dignity (Leviticus 19:10), and to allow immigrants to pass property down the family line (Leviticus 25:29–30). Circumcised aliens and strangers were even welcomed to participate in the Passover celebrations (Exodus 12:43–49).
Of course, in practice, Israel frequently got it spectacularly wrong. Part of the reason Zechariah pronounced God’s judgment was because they were ill-treating the alien and stranger.
Now the church is the place designed to fling wide its doors to welcome people from all nations and cultures.
Today the church can be a prophetic voice in the world, speaking up for displaced peoples everywhere. We can call for justice for all – whether they choose to follow Jesus or not.
And we can be a body that models care for the outsider well. That might mean helping with English conversation classes, helping new arrivals register with a GP, offering a warm welcome and helping out with furniture. But, at our core, we remain a worshipping community and our greatest privilege is to welcome people from all over the globe to worship together.
That will require some thought – cross-cultural mission requires wisdom; being a truly multicultural congregation requires sacrifice and love. But it’s as we unite around the cross in unity that the true foretaste of eternal bliss is seen.