On immigration (and why some Christians should be ashamed)

July 11th, 2014

Immigration is a touchy issue right now. With the advent of tens of thousands of children who have made their way into the U.S., a lingering issue has been thrust to the headlines once again. And as with any issue, there arrives a Republican side and a Democratic side, a conservative side and a liberal side. From what I’ve seen, heard and read, Christians are landing all over the place on this issue.

But Jesus transcends political factions. For those of us who are concerned about the issues at the border, for national security, for human rights, and who call ourselves Christians, perhaps we too should transcend political allegiances just this once before we claim Jesus is towing our party line. There is more going on here than simply ideologies of government. In fact here are three (I think biblical) ideas that need to be involved in how we approach this issue. If we fail to address these, we will be the ones giving account for our actions or inactions to a God we call “just.” Inevitably, there will be some of us who find ourselves ashamed of how we approached this issue… approached these people.

Here we go.

1. God says…

In Leviticus God very specifically commands the people of Israel to act a certain way toward people. While many Christians are quick to consign the Old Testament to being for a particular time and culture, God doesn’t change. Leviticus 19:10 says, “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:20 further says, "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.” God is concerned with showing mercy to those who need it and to those who are not one of you. Borders change, but God’s concern for people doesn’t.

"But they are here illegally!" Yes they are. That needs to be addressed. Everything about our system needs to be addressed. Still God’s concern for people is always paramount. When Jesus hung on a cross between two thieves, he showed mercy without discrimination in regards to legal status. Thank God for that! As Christ followers, we have an example to follow.

2. Who these people are…

In 2013, Pew Research Center did some research (hence their name) and found that 83% of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. are Christian. Who is sneaking across the border illegally? The same very people whom you will presumably spend an eternity with. American Christians are just a fraction of the number of Christians worldwide, many of whom live in developing countries. How awkward will it be when these people come to us in eternity and ask how we treated them and their families in this life? How much more awkward will it be when God calls us out for our actions or inactions toward our brothers and sisters in Christ? Yikes. “Gladiator” got it right: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Thanks Russell Crowe!

Not to mention Paul. Have you read Paul recently? He speaks over and over about how Christians are to behave with one another. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Even if the vast majority of these folks weren’t Christians, as Christians we have a different level of accountability to those who are in need and fleeing poverty. If you’ve been outside the U.S. recently, you’ll find that in many countries in our hemisphere, life comes with no guarantees of clean water, food or safety. I’ve been to Haiti earlier this year and to Mexico in years past. If I lived there, I’d risk life and limb for my family to have a chance of life. Wouldn’t you?

3. Keep in mind the future...

This idea isn’t inherently Christian as much as it is common sense. Mistreating and forcibly deporting millions of people, in particularly children may seem appropriate to some today. But tomorrow, I assure you it will be a terrible idea. History repeats itself, and history is always connected. Sending a generation back to miserable conditions where crime, drugs, and gangs run rampant and where they now are angry at the country they once held in high esteem is a recipe for disaster. Quick fixes have a tendency to turn into long term problems. To fight the Soviets, our country armed the Taliban. To save Kuwait in the 90’s we placed troops in Suadi Arabia, further radicalizing Al Qaeda. Every action has a consequence; some consequences are worse than others.

Let’s not mistreat people coming to us for help. Let’s find a better solution. And FYI they’ve already found a way to get into our country once, and that was without ill contempt!

Perhaps some of us should be ashamed of the way we've handled this issue. I know I am. The more I open my heart to Jesus, the more I open my eyes are to what Jesus concerns himself with, and the less I hold on to preconceived political ideas. I’m not advocating for permanent amnesty for everyone—what I am saying is that we need to do things better. God couldn't care less that we are Americans and they are Mexican, Honduran, etc. People are people and they always need to be seen and treated as such. God loves people, shows mercy to people and seeks justice for people. As Christians, let’s do that too and also recognize that the government doesn’t have the same mandate that we have as Christians. This is too important an issue to be divided on or to mess up.

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