There’s been plenty of media and political speculation over the past days and weeks on what will happen now that Romanians and Bulgarians have open access to live in the UK. The national narrative on immigration includes lines like: Labour’s open door policy on immigration has created a problem of significant magnitude (see Labour got it wrong); people must not be allowed to come to the UK and abuse our benefits system; it’s okay for immigrants to come here as long as they contribute to the costs of running the country; the economy will benefit from hard working and aspirational immigrants. There are also the self interest parties who say things like; our way of life is being disturbed; our jobs are being stolen; immigrants are not integrating; there are cultural ghettos forming in our inner cities; communities are divided and fragmenting and so on. No one really seems to have a handle on what will happen. Only one thing is for sure. Life on these hallowed isles will be different and more diverse, at least for a while.
West Bromwich receives its fair share of folk from overseas. Our church school has 27 languages spoken at home and that might be about to change to 29. We have relatively cheap housing and a critical mass of people from all over the world, so that it is easy to fit into the diversity.
How, then, should Christians in the UK view immigration? The great biblical story line which began with Abraham makes what is happening a very positive thing indeed. In the opening chapters of the bible, God made a series of promises to Abraham.
As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations…I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. (Genesis 17:4-6)
Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. (Genesis 18:18)
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
To bless someone is to do good for their joy and happiness. God has promised to bless all the nations, not just the individuals, of the earth through Abraham’s offspring. As God has made this promise then all things in history will tend toward that end. Therefore, any child of Abraham, that is all who by faith in Christ Jesus are Abraham’s offspring (Galatians 3:7), should view immigration as part of God’s plan to bless all nations.
As people from many nations move into British communities where there are missional minded churches, people from those nations will hear the gospel of Christ and respond in faith. The word of the Lord will then return to those nations from where the immigrant family or community has come and so the Lord will fulfil his promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth through him.
We have already seen this happening in West Bromwich. The Punjabi language church which meets in our building supports over forty new churches in India. We are working on plans together with them our mission for A Passion for Life this coming Easter.
And so missional Christians will view mass immigration positively. Through British churches of all ethnicities, God might just be pleased to bless all the nations of the earth. Just imagine when revival comes to a community like West Bromwich or to this nation. People will come to the UK not, as they do now, to enhance their economic well being, but to be taught the word of the Lord. What a great reputation that will be to have as a nation.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all nations. (Luke 2:10)
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. (Romans 1:5)