Should I stay or should I go? Christians and migration

Should I stay or should I go? Christians and migration

I serve a church that is made up, for the most part, from migrants. All Nations Presbyterian Church is a church consisting of a wide range of people, the majority of which grew up in another part of the world. This is a great blessing and gives our church a flavour, I like to think, of what it will be like on the Last Day when people from all tribes and peoples and nations worship God together.

It does mean, though, that at different times, and for different reasons, many of the people in my church have decided to move countries. This could be because of the state of their home country and the danger they were in if they stayed, like my good friends from Afghanistan. It could be because of their employer forcing them to move. But for many, it was a choice not forced upon them, but a choice that they made for other reasons. Australia is an attractive destination country if you can get a permanent resident visa, something very difficult to obtain. It has political stability, a good standard of living, good education options for children, and many freedoms other parts of the world do not have.

With that context, I have been asked the following question by a few thoughtful people over the years: is it right to migrate to another country by choice? For those choosing to migrate to Australia, they are choosing to leave what is probably a country in worse shape to move to somewhere more comfortable. Is that OK or not?

It is a good question, for it assumes something that we should think about. It assumes that our comfort and personal choice are not the only things we should base our life decisions on. If we are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, then we need to ask a more important question before anything else. How does this decision fit with my service of God? How does this enhance God’s reputation? How does it help me influence my community with the gospel and use my gifts to build up the local church?

The answer to these questions is not black and white, but asking them does mean we are approaching such an important life decision as a Christian. If the only things we ever ask is whether the education system in the target country is better or what the standard of living is like, even pagans do that.

Does the Bible help us answer the migration question? Well, people did move around in the ancient world for a range of reasons; the law is full of references to travellers who were away from their home country. But the closest verse that deals with choosing to leave a bad situation for a better life comes from 1 Corinthians 7:21. Paul says that being a slave is something Christians can still serve God as, but if the opportunity comes to obtain your freedom, you should do it.  It is quite OK to leave your bondage to seek a better life. There are instructions for how to serve Jesus aimed at slaves, and instructions for how to serve Jesus aimed at free people.

So, if your country is not a nice place to live, and a better opportunity (such as Australia) becomes available, taking that opportunity is not sin. You can serve God in your adopted home. But it is also valid to stay where you are and work to be a positive influence there, to build up the church, and to be salt and light to your neighbours. It is a wisdom issue. Whatever you decide, it should not be taken lightly, and we need to think as Christians about it.

Wherever you are, you can serve Jesus there. And living a life thanking the One who saved you is more important than comfort or education.