'Justice, Mercy and Kindness - week 3: The Foreigner' with Dan Green and guests - November 11th 2018

How can followers of Jesus be welcoming and loving towards people that our society sees as outsiders or strangers? Includes stories about the charities Bridges for Communities and Unseen, and the Easton CE Academy.

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’" Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIV)

0:00 Introduction

We are in the middle of a series considering four people groups that God has a heart for. The goal is for us to pray with insight, to give generously and to get involved.

This week we consider the foreigner, defined broadly as someone who is seen as the ‘other’, the outsider or the stranger, one of ‘them’ not ‘us’. This relates to Dan's life experience, and also to the journey of God's people from foreign exiles in Egypt to a land that God was giving them. God gave detailed instructions about how they were to live, including:

"‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

In the Old Testament, there are more verses telling God's people to love the foreigner or stranger living among them than there are verses telling them to love their neighbour.

In the New Testament, Jesus' teaching challenged Jewish people's prevailing view of a Jew/Gentile division by example (e.g. healing a Roman centurion's daughter) and stories (e.g. the Good Samaritan).

Jesus' death and new life also accomplished a radical destruction of the division between Jews and non-Jews.

"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility… Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household." Ephesians 2:14-19 (NIV)

So reconciliation with one another is part of the work Jesus did, and it is work that he entrusts to us as his followers.

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

This is very much needed in our time, as the narratives of "us" and "them" are strong, a natural human tendency. Fear and hate crime are prominent, with Muslim and Jewish communities most commonly targeted.

We should be praying about our approach to these issues and challenges which cause division among us, including Brexit.

10:07 Karen Green, Bridges For Communities

Bridges For Communities is a Bristol-based charity working to connect people with different cultures and faiths, building friendships which break down some of the "us and them" attitudes. This includes befriending refugees and asylum seekers, including the families coming to Bristol from Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq. This helps the families to find practical help, settle in and learn English.

Many of the befrienders are from Severn Vineyard, including Kevin, featured in this video.

Yasser, 24 years old, had to leave Syria a year ago because of the war. Kevin received training about what to expect and be sensitive about in befriending, then met up with Yasser weekly in a cafe. A slight language barrier at the beginning started to become easier as the friendship and Yasser's language skills developed. Kevin describes this development as a two-way process, and now he is learning about Bristol life from Yasser, as well as discovering new foods, friends and ways of doing things from Yasser's experience.

More about the b.friend programme

Training is available on November 28 2018 and on other dates (check website for future dates).

Bridges For Communities also has regular social events for exploring Bristol with groups, and is piloting a program to assist people in finding work by helping others to learn their native language, e.g. Arabic.

20:00 Amy Jacobs, Unseen

Unseen works with victims of human trafficking. They have safe houses, a modern slavery help line and a "Resettlement, Integration, Outreach" project supporting survivors living in our community, often asylum seekers.

Our heart is to see them recreate a life that they have freedom in, that they want to enjoy.
— Amy Jacobs

Mental health issues and a spirit of control can still hold back a person who is out of their place of exploitation, so helping people to find freedom means helping them to engage in the city and carry on friendships independently.

Prayer is needed to see a generation free from slavery and human trafficking, and a spirit of unity and boldness is needed for this.

The money that is given towards Unseen through our Special Offering on 25th November will be used towards gifts for victims of trafficking. If you would like to give towards the Unseen wishlist directly, then please contact Amy Jacobs a.jacobs@unseenuk.org for more details.

25:30 Ruth Pickin, Easton CE Academy

Easton CE Academy is a Church of England primary school with 75% Somali children, with the rest a mixture of other ethnic groups. Most families have a Muslim faith. In the area, there are high levels of deprivation and social housing.

Building relationships and trust has been a challenge, with some fearing about the learning of Religious Education and different faiths. Ways of overcoming this have included an annual food festival and a parents' forum.

Challenges include many children not speaking English as a first language, and different ideas among families about behaviour and discipline.

Prayer is needed for continued positive relationships between the school and community, for better academic progress, and for strength, resilience and unity amongst the staff.

30:16 Rubens Mazzon, working with expats in Bristol

Rubens is from Brazil and has connected with a number of people who have arrived in Bristol from different countries.

The story of the early church is a story of crossing boundaries.
— Rubens Mazzon

Rubens senses that God has been involved in people's moves and that some become more open to hearing about Jesus. He shares the gospel and disciples people, and hopes that some will take new faith back to their home countries.

33:33 Conclusion

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." Acts 17:26 (NIV)

God has brought people to our city for many different reasons but with a purpose in mind, as he seeks to draw all of us closer to himself.

Response and prayer

Is there one person you can think of who may feel like an outsider, a stranger in this city, that you could reach out to this week, taking a step to help them feel more included, more at home?

Please pray about:

  • the world we live in

  • Brexit

  • the work of the people who have shared today

  • our response

Questions for discussion

  1. Dan defined the ‘foreigner’ as someone who is seen as the ‘other’, the outsider or the stranger. Someone who is not typically seen as one of ‘us’, but as one of ‘them’. What are the ways in which you see ‘us and them’ thinking or attitudes at work, in your own life or in our society?

  2. “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” How do you think these instructions in Leviticus 19:33-34 apply to the UK today? Where do you think Bristol specifically falls short?

  3. How do you think followers of Jesus can live out the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ that Jesus entrusted to us (2 Cor 5:18,19), building on the radical work of reconciliation that he himself had done (Eph 2:14-19)?

  4. Is there one person you can think of who may feel like an outsider or a stranger in this city, that you could reach out to this week? How could you take a step towards them to help them feel more included, more at home?