Tag Archives: Migration

The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church

by David W. T. Brattston.

Any article on attitudes to racism in the Christian church’s foundational period would be necessarily short. There simply was none. The matter was sometimes different for foreigners and strangers in general.

Racism was absent in the earliest church and in the non-Christian society surrounding it.  Christians and other subjects of the Roman Empire simply did not make distinctions based on race.  In fact, mentions of a person’s skin color are so rare as to be insignificant.  For instance, the Christian Bardesanes in early third-century eastern Syria mentioned the fact that people come in different colors as an example of what everyone agreed was inconsequential.

The only discriminations were based on cultural factors.  Jews divided the world into themselves and Gentiles, while for Greeks the distinction was between themselves and “barbarians” i.e. people who did not share Greek language or culture.  The Romans divided people between citizens and non-citizens, and then among various economic classes of citizens.  The main Roman xenophobia was of hostile peoples outside the Empire.  Continue reading The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church

The Multicultural DNA of Pentecost

God is not a nationalist. He does not only speak English, or Chinese, or Swedish or Hebrew or Swahili. He knows all our languages – and more.

He dramatically demonstrated this when he sent his Holy Spirit to baptize the church on the day of Pentecost. The disciples “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This included Latin, Arabic, Greek, Coptic and many other languages (vv. 5-11).

The Holy Spirit is an international Spirit. Or rather, non-national.

Shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians reflect this? Shouldn’t we be examples of international, multicultural love rather than tribalism and isolationism?

Jesus’ command was clear: make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Pentecost was a Tower of Babel in reverse to equip the church to do its job. We need to migrate, study other cultures and even be a part of them in order to share the Gospel effectively.

This is why Paul was a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). He didn’t put his ethnic identity before his missionary task. In fact, he viewed his achievements from Phariseic Judaism as a “loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:7).

As a Christian, his focus was on something else: inviting people to become citizens in another state, another Kingdom. Heaven (Phil 3:20).

This is why Pentecost shatters nationalism and tribalism. It was repeated on Azusa Street, where the Holy Spirit once again enabled people to speak other languages. The power was real: the first issue of Azusa’s magazine, The Apostolic Faith, relates the following amazing miracle:

A Mohammedan, a Sudanese by birth,a man who is an interpreter and speaks sixteen languages, came into the meeting at Azusa Street and the Lord gave him messages which none but himself could understand. He identified, interpreted and wrote in a number of the languages.

Did you catch that? So many saints at Azusa spoke real foreign languages as they were spirituall baptized, that an interpreter who knew sixteen languages was overwhelmed and even heard messages directed specifically to him!

Azusa Street was a rare multi-racial and multicultural church, led by a team of different ethnicities. As Frank Bartleman said, “the ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”

Don’t we need some more washing today? Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with your colorblind power and love!


Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Bible on Immigration: Jeff Sessions Has It Wrong

Immigration is often in the news, but over the last several weeks, it has been discussed at a higher frequency than usual when information about the Trump administration’s policies on immigration to the United States (especially from Mexico and Central America) came to light.

Many of the policies embraced by the Trump administration are not unique to current administration. The Obama administration deported many foreign nationals and migrants, and they were following precedents set by the Bush administration. In addition, the first significant jump in deportations took place under the administration of Bill Clinton, while Hillary Clinton went so far as to support a double-layered border fence (in addition to other increased border security measures). Over the last 20 years, they have progressively become standard US policy on illegal immigration from Latin American nations. However, a recent story shows that this can also affect people from Canada who cross the border outside of a legal port of entry.

What makes this issue particularly relevant for Christians — and those of us at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice — is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the Bible in defense of these sorts of policies. Sessions is correct that most Biblical scholars understand Romans 13:1-7 to be discussing submission to governing authorities. Christians, who are supposed to love our enemies (Romans 12:17-19, 13:8-10), are supposed to love the state that persecutes them (as would have been the case in Paul’s context). This passage is not about blind allegiance to governmental policies that may be unfair, unjust, or unholy.  Continue reading The Bible on Immigration: Jeff Sessions Has It Wrong

Overview: Refugees, Asylees, and TPS

I have been listening carefully to the immigration debates and discussions in this country and have come to the realization that most everyday people do not have a clear grasp of how our immigration system works and how it affects those migrating to the US.  While not an expert, I have taken a 40 hour class on Immigration Law and can explain some of the rudimentary elements of our system.

First, when we hear about immigration on the news, the various categories of immigration are lumped together and important distinctions between a refugee, and asylee, and TPS are seldom made, making it confusing for people to grasp the implications for our country.  I wish to lay out some simplified definitions and answer some of the questions I often hear everyday folks ask.  Know that immigration includes many different categories and these are only three.  (Home Land Security Chart on differences between refugees and asylee)

What is a Refugee? 

A refugee is someone who leaves their country because of war or conflict and can show that he or she has a credible fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion in their country of origin.  A refugee often leaves his or her own country and travels to a refugee camp where they reside until at which time either their country of origin is safe once again or they are assigned a country that will take them in and help them resettle. Continue reading Overview: Refugees, Asylees, and TPS

Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger

What is Philoxenia? When I first heard this word, I wondered if I had just stumbled upon a new kind of flower, Philoxenia… sort of like a Xenia or phlox or a Xenia crossed with a phlox to create a whole new flower.  It’s not a flower, it is the Greek word for Hospitality.  It literally means Philo or Love; Xenia or Stranger; put together it means LOVE OF STRANGER. 

Hospitality then is the act of making strangers feel loved, as if they belong, welcome—like family.  Hospitality is another thread that is woven throughout the entire Bible. 

Growing up in the church, hospitality was more about making sure the coffee was on and the donuts and cookies were placed out on the serving table.  We had a hospitality committee, usually made up of women, who made sure there were plenty of good things to eat and coffee to drink—cool-aid for the children and decaf for the senior folks.  And we would gather in the fellowship hall after the morning service to share in a time of “fellowship”.  Because what else would one do in a fellowship hall?  I loved this time because it meant that I could play just a bit longer with my friends before we all went home for Sunday dinner.  Continue reading Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger

The Lord’s Supper Crosses All Borders

The Bible is filled with images of Jesus eating with people, hanging out with people, welcoming people, eating with all sorts of seemly and unseemly people.  He was accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners… seriously, the worst kind of people.  While invited to the table of Simon the Pharisee (who did not wash his feet and welcome him) in Luke 7, he was adequately welcomed by the sinful woman who crashed the party and washed Jesus feet with her hair.

Even in the book of Acts one of their first controversies was over who they should eat with… Gentiles or their own kind and whether they should eat–meat sacrificed to idols or not?  Paul and Peter clashed in the Epistles over the fact that Peter had avoided eating with Gentiles because the Judizer’s might disapprove and consider him defiled for sharing the table with Gentile believers.   Somehow the idea of eating and drinking is tied up with the new community that has been created in Christ Jesus. Continue reading The Lord’s Supper Crosses All Borders

“Make Disciples of All Nations” – and Then the Nations Came to Us!

As Jesus was preparing to leave the earth and ascend to heaven, He gave his disciples a few instructions called the Great Commission. Jesus directed his remaining followers to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the way of the Lord. For the last 2000 years or so, that is just what the church has done (albeit imperfectly and not always contextually). Since Pentecost, ministers of the gospel have gone out to other places in the world to preach and teach the Word of God, and have led billions upon billions to faith in Jesus Christ. Amazing, right!

Over the last few hundred years, however, this cross-cultural ministry has primarily been led by American and European missionaries. Out of a desire to win the lost in exotic, third world nations (and sometimes out of a desire to colonize those nations, let’s just be honest) they have crossed land and sea, spending their entire lifetime discipling people in the way of the Lord. Yet, as a result of immigration and other global trends/ situations, something quite fascinating has taken place.

Now people of other nations and ethnicities are coming to America, looking for opportunities to start over, raise their family, receive education or just live to see another day. This has wonderful implications on the gospel and missions efforts, because now the very people that we’ve been trying to reach are our neighbors. But instead of reaching out to them, inviting them into our churches, our homes, our lives, many Christians and churches are pushing them away. Continue reading “Make Disciples of All Nations” – and Then the Nations Came to Us!