Immigration

The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While many Americans might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.

This is a gospel issue. First of all, our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called “illegal immigrant.” Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with him in Egypt (Matt. 2:113-23). Jesus, who lived out his life for us, spent his childhood years in a foreign land away from his relatives among people speaking a different language with strange customs.

In so doing, our Lord Jesus was re-living the life of Israel, our ancestors in the faith, who were also immigrants and sojourners in Egypt (Exod. 1:1-14; 1 Chron. 16:19; Acts 7:6). It is this reality, the Bible tells us, that is to ground our response to those who sojourn among us (Exod. 22:21; Ps. 94:6; Jer.7:6; Ezek. 22:29; Zech. 7:10). God, the Bible says, “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18-19).

This is much more than a “political” issue, abstracted from our salvation. Jesus tells us that our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matt. 25:40). God will judge those who exploit workers and mistreat the poor. No matter how invisible they seem to us now, God hears (Isa. 3:15; Amos 4:1; Jas.5:4).

This is also a question of our mission. There are upwards of 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country right now, and many more in the Latino community who came here legally. If our response to them is to absorb the nativism and bigotry of some elements of society around us, we are showing them a vision of what the Bible calls “the flesh” rather than the Spirit. If our churches ignore the nations around us who are living in our own communities, we will reflect 1970s Bible Belt America rather than the kingdom of God which is made up of those "from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language" (Rev. 7:9).

It is easy to lash out at undocumented immigrants as “law-breakers,” and to cite Romans 13 as reason to simply call for deportation and retribution. But this issue is far more complicated than that. Yes, undocumented immigrants are violating the law, but, first of all, most of them are doing so in order to provide a future for their families in flight from awful situations back home. Many of them are children (as our Lord Jesus was at the time of his immigration).

And, even given our nation’s Romans 13 responsibility to maintain secure borders, the message our nation sends to those across our borders isn’t clear and univocal. As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land puts it, there are two metaphorical signs on our border: “Keep out” and “Help wanted.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t real political challenges here. I agree that the border should be secured. I support holding businesses accountable for hiring, especially since some of them use the threat of deportation as a way of exploiting these vulnerable workers. I support a realistic means of providing a way to legal status for the millions of immigrants already here. But there are many who disagree with me, and for valid reasons.

The larger issue is in how we talk about this issue, recognizing that this is not about “issues” or “culture wars” but about persons made in the image of God. Our churches must be the presence of Christ to all persons, regardless of country of origin or legal status. We need to stand against bigotry and harassment and exploitation, even when it’s politically profitable for those who stand with us on other issues.

And, most importantly, we must love our brothers and sisters in the immigrant communities. We must be the presence of Christ to and among them, even as we receive ministry from them. Our commitment to a multinational kingdom of God’s reconciliation in Christ must be evident in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations.

Immigration isn’t just an issue. It’s an opportunity to see that, as important as the United States of America is, there will be a day when the United States of America will no longer exist. And on that day, the sons and daughters of God will stand before the throne of a former undocumented immigrant. Some of them are migrant workers and hotel maids now. They will be kings and queens then. They are our brothers and sisters forever.

We might be natural-born Americans, but we’re all immigrants to the kingdom of God (Eph. 2:12-14). Whatever our disagreements on immigration as policy, we must not disagree on immigrants as persons. Our message to them, in every language and to every person, must be “Whosoever will may come.”

from The Christian Post

18 comments:

Liberal Elite said...

I've always seen the anti-immigration fervor as just a form of racism. They are happy to have the Hispanics come here to clean our toilets, rake out our gutters, and to pick our lettuce,.. but to have them share in our prosperity and compete for OUR jobs, well they just don't seem to know their place. Throw them all out!

Anyway, I like your post, but I don't see this issue in religious terms. The issue seems to be humanitarian at its core dealing with issues of exploitation (“Help wanted”) and oppression (“Keep out”).

Two Sentz said...

Good to hear from you LE.

Exploitation and oppression are themes appearing though out the Bible so while immigration isn't a religious issue in and of itself, I think a biblical filter/viewpoint can be applied.

Anonymous said...

From a history of U.S. Immigration:

1990 Immigration Act of 1990 limited unskilled workers to 10,000/year; skilled labor requirements and immediate family reunification major goals. Continued to promote nuclear family model. Foreign-born in US was 7%.

It is very, very tough for an unskilled worker to get into this country legally.

Joe H.
Stevensville, MD

Liberal Elite said...

...yet their assistance seems to be needed more than ever.

"Farmers Oppose G.O.P. Bill on Immigration"
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/us/politics/31verify.html

afterthegoldrush said...

YAY!

All Right Now said...

I don't have a problem with LEGAL immigration at all. My grandfather came to this country from Italy at the age of 7. He came on a boat and waited in line on Ellis Island. He spoke Italian but quickly learned the English language as did his parents and his brother and sister. While he was still able to speak Italian when my mother was born, he refused to teach her to speak Italian telling her "you are an American, be proud of that and speak english". But I digress.

T/S I enjoyed the post and it made me think about my position on illegal immigration. It also had me torn between my desire to be good to everyone the way I know I should be as a good christian. But we are a nation of laws and at the end of the day illegal is illegal. I agree with LE. You can't have it both ways. People who hire those who are here illegally should face stiff penalties. If not, you can't punish those who are here illegally. I firmly believe that those who are here illegally should be deported post haste without regard to why they are here. Illegal is illegal. I don't however, believe we should treat those here illegally like animals. Really good post brother.

All Right Now said...

Also....Joe - while I agree it may be difficult to get in to work legally, there is no excuse, IMHO, for coming here illegally. Jobs are few and far between. American citizens deserve them before someone here illegally or someone coming from another country legally looking for work. I hear all the time that "they are only doing the jobs Americans won't do". That may be the case in the majority of the time but I can assure you it becomes less and less the case everyday. They are here doing residential and commercial construction, landscaping, etc. That is a far cry from migrant farm work as some would profess. No sir. Illegal immigrants are in fact taking jobs that American citizens could have and they are being hired because they are willing to work for less.

afterthegoldrush said...

As usual, ARN, I like the way you think.

doug said...

I know to many men that have twenty years in the company they had that were fkd by cheap labor, now its gone. On something that deep I will step out of the mirror. If only for awhile. I am NOT with you on this. Do I hate you? NO. Do I care more about people that I have known all my life? Yes. There ain enough to go around. Once your out of your mirror the rules dont apply anymore.

cruggly said...

Hell no.

Anonymous said...

Do u know whats the Hardest Riddle in the world ?

afterthegoldrush said...

ROASTMULES.

Liberal Elite said...

@doug "There ain enough to go around."

And you're blaming the immigrants for that???

How about blaming the conservatives who run corporate America, who are DIRECTLY behind the big sell out that destroyed those jobs.

They lobbied hard for the "right" to destroy America for profit, and our wonderful Congress gave it to them.

Anonymous said...

You mean the congress in control of the house when Obama was elected? The same one that couldn't put a budget together for 2 years even though their party controlled the house, the senate AND the whitehouse? That congress? Or are you referring to the durrent congress that has been in controll of the house for less than a year whose party only controls 1/3 of the government? I'm trying to be sure I understand your point.

afterthegoldrush said...

My conundrum.
I agree with you, on this, LE.
I also agree with ARN.
And I agree with cruggly/doug.
There is no reason this community can not get together and fix this problem.

Two Sentz said...

What, you don't agree with me ATGR? LOL just kidding. I'm glad everyone was able to chime in and find some common ground.

Liberal Elite said...

@4:23 "I'm trying to be sure I understand your point."

I am referring to the congress that is willing to blatantly sell out the best interests of our country in exchange for a few donations. Both parties play this game, and both are guilty of screwing America. But the bulk of the recent "screwing of America" took place during the Bush years, and especially the early years.

You want some obvious examples? How about those corporate tax breaks for moving American jobs overseas? Who granted those?

How about allowing the sale of rare earth metal mining to China... the whole kit and kaboodle. And now China is playing nasty games with that resource.

How about those efforts to weaken the American unions by moving jobs overseas. Who championed that wonderful objective? Those guys hate the unions so much, that they're willing to screw ALL of America just to slap at a few of them. Your interests are just collateral damage. Too bad...

If you want to follow along in the news, just follow the money. And look at who is getting richer and who is getting poorer, and WHY! Your interests have been and are being sold down the river, and you're angry at the wrong people...

afterthegoldrush said...

TS> That goes without saying.

"Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name."