I was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me
Reminding us that we were all at one time strangers in the land we now call 'home', Pastor Ian exhorts us to welcome those from other countries whom God has brought to our shores.
foreigner /ˈfɒrɪnə/ noun
1. A person not native to or naturalised in the country or jurisdiction under consideration; an alien.
2. A person from outside one's community.
Lately there has been much discussion on social networking sites on what it means to be a Singaporean. Increasingly there is concern at the growing number of foreigners living and working in this nation. Questions like, “What ethnicities best represent our Singaporean identity?” and “How are foreigners assimilating into the Singaporean culture?” often generate passionate online conversation.
In June this year, the Prime Minister’s Office released the 'National Population in Brief 2017' and reported that 40% of Singapore’s population was made up of foreigners, prompting the question, “How are we to respond to the dramatic influx of foreigners?”
Here are some thoughts I believe God would like included in this conversation:
“Remember Where You Came From!”
In Leviticus 19:34, God reminds the people of Israel that since they were once migrants in a foreign land, they ought to remember to treat strangers well. “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The Lord reminds His people that our ancestors came from somewhere else. They were all at one time strangers in the land we now call 'home'.
“Remember Migration has Gospel Implications.”
This past week, as our Brother Yee Kiat led us in our Equip Study on the book of Ruth, I was struck by Ruth’s surprise when she—a foreigner—was met with kindness and generosity. Boaz’s response to her in Ruth 2:11 was, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Boaz clearly recognised the spiritual implications of Ruth’s physical relocation: by moving to live among the Israelites, Ruth had placed herself within the sanctuary of the Almighty.
In Ephesians 2:12, the Apostle Paul reminds us that at one time we were all just like Ruth. We were strangers. He wrote, “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Clearly, God has demonstrated His affection for the nations by bringing them to Singapore so that, under His wings, they may come to take refuge. It is His sovereign pleasure to gather the divided nations and make them one family.
“Belief is Important, …but You will be Judged by Your Behaviour.”
Jesus and his family were refugees in Egypt. Perhaps this is why He identified hospitality as a primary characteristic of those who would shepherd His flock (1 Timothy 3:2). In the New Testament, the word hospitality means 'love of foreigners'. It is no wonder then, that in describing those who are blessed by His father to inherit the kingdom prepared for them, Jesus included this characteristic: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)
In light of the truth of God’s word, here is what I am celebrating about Grace Baptist Church:
1. Every week an enthusiastic team led by Lai Sai, Patsy and Nee Kiah minister to a growing number of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist children who would never ordinarily find refuge beneath the wings of the Almighty.
2. Each week Pat Chan faithfully meets with a small group of Filipinas who are far from home and family, for a time of fellowship and Bible study.
3. Every Sunday Pastor Andrew Saw leads our Myanmar Fellowship. They meet on the 5th floor, joyfully praising God and carefully listening to His word preached.
4. This Sunday Raveedran Gunta, a young engineer from the Telegu minority of South India, will put the gospel on display as he follows the Lord in baptism. You have loved and welcomed this young brother as your own and in doing so, you have enthusiastically embraced the command of Leviticus 19:34.
I thank God that just like Boaz, God has called us to welcome the nations that He has brought to our shores, and trust you will join me in joyful anticipation that He will use GBC to draw many into the shelter of the Almighty!
Christmas at GBC
One practical way of welcoming others into our midst is to invite them to celebrate Christmas with us. Let’s pray and seek out opportunities to share the good news of Jesus. These are our upcoming Christmas events:
- Christmas Service: Sunday, Dec 24, 9 am.
- Baptisms: These will take place during the Christmas Service. We will be celebrating God’s grace in the lives of several believers, who will be taking this step of obedience to Christ.
- Let’s Celebrate Christmas! Sunday, Dec 24, 10.30 am - 1.30 pm, 3rd floor Fellowship Hall. Let’s come together over lunch to celebrate God’s goodness and gift of life to us through His Son. Please invite your family and friends—guests are very welcome! There will be carol singing, special presentations by the Children’s Ministry and others, and the sharing of testimonies. You can sign up from Sunday, Nov 26.