Reader Writes, November 2016
What do we think about immigration? It's a subject brought centre stage by Brexit and our Government's strategy direction. It helps me to take a mental walk through Kington. I'll nod to The Royal Oak with its wonderful Thai cook, I'll wave to Eunice, the South African carer, I'll try to say Yo Napot when I see Erica, our Hungarian friend, I'll definitely smile at Agnjeska, the Polish chef, I'll buy some bird seed from Ludmilla, the Russian mum, I'll wave to our Bulgarian Turks frying chips, and I might buy something from Marek and Eva from Slovakia, and I'll certainly greet our friend from up on the hill who I think arrived with the kindertransport when our doors were open to other desperate migrations. By the time I am mingling with the farmers on market day I will have forgotten when the Saxons collided with the Welsh, and the Normans were dismaying them both.
Our society is moulded by migration, and it is probably impossible, let alone ethical, significantly to curtail it. But we could give ourselves the exercise of asking what Jesus would have done. With the story of the rich man and Lazarus difficult to ignore, we are bound to expect Jesus to have opened borders and welcomed the destitute. Tackling the causes of global destitution is also an urgent question of justice. Revolutions are never tidy, always costly and certainly needed!
But I would like to ask a different question about ourselves. To whom and on what grounds do we belong? A British passport settles the question in one sense; most of us in Kington, if not in London, were born here and belong by birthright. But if we ask the question where we belong spiritually, the criteria take a surprising turn. We are not Christians by birth or by lucky inheritance; nor are we even Christians thanks to the purchasing power of good works and flawless conduct. No! We are not counted as God's children either by right of birth or by deserving lives but because God chose us for adoption. As any adoptive parent knows, that makes it all the more special. Paul puts it succinctly in his letter to the Ephesians: 'He chose us to be adopted as his sons through Christ Jesus.' In eternity our citizenship is entirely down to God's goodness; Christ paid the price, and we bring nothing but our open hands.
Belonging is usually bound together with the generosity of others, which is why all Christians will speak up for the just treatment of refugees and the economically destitute. But the Creation itself reminds us that gratitude and kindness seldom flow evenly. I think I detect a certain triumphalism among the noisy sparrows in the eaves, and a distinct cockiness amongst the robins in the garden now that those flighty and noisy migrants have abandoned us for warmer latitudes. While leaves are falling, buds are forming. Notwithstanding the cost we must love others because God first loved us.