The Christian View of Xenophobia?
One of the interesting facts of life is that before a person is born into the world, that person does not choose which country he/she wants to be born into.
Nobody chooses their nationality nor do they choose which family they would like to be born into. At birth, such choices belong to God alone.
However this simple truth is missed by many racial or xenophobic individuals.
Xenophobia is the fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. It is also defined as a deep-rooted fear towards foreigners or strangers.
For years we have witnessed xenophobia expressed in its most horrific and extreme forms. For example, in various countries foreigners have been beaten to death, burned to death or even stoned to death.
Whilst perpetrators and supporters of xenophobia have given economic & social reasons as justification for their behavior, such violent xenophobic attacks clearly indicate that there is something terribly wrong with the fabric of society and in or world today. Society is increasingly becoming morally lawless and desensitized.
In Matthew 24:12, Jesus speaks about the condition of mankind in the last days by saying “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
Therefore while the definition of xenophobia relates to fear of that which is different or unfamiliar, it has been clear for centuries that xenophobia eventually leads to hatred and intolerance.
Hatred ultimately leads to anger, violence and even murder as witnessed in such countries like South Africa.
So xenophobia is not only an expression of fear, but it is also an expression of hatred and anger.
In Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus says that anyone who is capable of anger in his heart is just as guilty of the same judgment as one who commits murder.
Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
Hatred towards people of different skin colours, nationalities and cultures stirs up division and strife. This kind of hatred is not only rooted in fear, but it is ultimately because mankind is sinful and he is losing his ability to express true love. As Jesus said – the love of man will grow cold in the last days.
One of the greatest commandments that Jesus gave us in addition to loving God is that we learn to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:30; Luke 10:27).
In Luke 10:27-37 when Jesus was asked “And who is my neighbor”, Christ specifically chose a Samaritan who was a foreigner and despised by the Jews to emphasize in His parable that love must be extended to foreigners and people whom we may despise.
In Exodus 22:21 the people of Israel were instructed to treat foreigners with kindness and respect because the Israelites themselves were once foreigners in Egypt.
Exodus 22:21 says: You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Since the Israelites were once mistreated themselves whilst in Egypt and yet God helped them escape, God did not want the Israelites with the same hatred and bigotry that they experienced at the hands of the Egyptians.
Instead God expected love to be the motivation of how they must treat foreigners
Therefore xenophobia is wrong for a Christian. The mandate of all Christians is to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:37-40).
We are to see all of mankind as created equal and as being created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Numbers 15:15-16 says: The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord: 16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.
There is no nationality or race or individual who is better than another. We are not to judge others according to their nationality or outward appearance but we should see people through the eyes of God.
A nation whose society cannot express genuine tolerance and love for each other nor for foreigners and immigrants, is a nation whose basic sense of morality is on the decline.
Love is the therefore the ultimate Biblical solution to such issues as xenophobia.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.