“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (Matthew 5:38-42 The Message Emphasis mine)
In recent news, there has been a great deal said about immigration reform and what should be done with the “swarm” of people, mostly from Mexico, who are entering, receiving Social Security, living, and working illegally in the United States. All this immigration stuff is greatly controversial as well.
On the one hand, you have people who are very racist in their statements about immigration. Sadly, this is the direction that a lot of professing Christians are going with their critiques of this issue. And on the other hand, you have people who seem to be acting way too generously toward the immigrants. They more or less want to see them immediately accepted as citizens upon their entrance into the American borders, whether they came through illegally or not, with no consequences if they did get here by some other-than-legal means.
I believe that there is a middle ground, and I believe that the middle ground is the Christian response to illegal aliens.
The Church and Political Power
Here in the states, the church is more identified with a political party than it is with her Establisher and Husband. If you are more “conservative” in your dealings, you are assumed to be a part of the Religious Right and therefore a die-hard Republican. And if you are more “liberal” in your dealings, you are assumed to be a part of the Religious Left and therefore a Democrat.
My point is, the church and partisan politics go hand-in-hand here in the states. And I believe that is why there is so much racism coming from professing Christians regarding immigration. Most of the church people who say anything that anyone is hearing are wacko Fundamentalists. They are Fundamentalists-in-name-only. For them, Fundamentalism means you fight sin through political control. The bigger the government, the deeper its fingers are messing around in individual affairs, and the more professing Christians we have in office, the more Christian the nation becomes. These people spend all their time protesting homosexual marriage and abortion and other such issues. That’s not to say that these aren’t important issues for our country in this day and age, but I have a hard time seeing them as “fundamentals.”
I also have a hard time seeing this as what Jesus was calling His people to be. And I could go on and on regarding this issue, but it would do no good; not to mention, it is completely off topic.
These wacko Fundamentalists are the ones who are fighting for stiffer border control using US troops while also fighting for the US to send more troops into wherever the President wants to blow things up next.
These people are forcing America’s loyalty to be divided to be quite honest. Do we protect our own borders from future terrorist attacks or do we fight extremist Muslims on their own soil in an attempt to stop terrorist attacks there? Which is more important? I doubt that these kind of Fundamentalists have a good answer.
My point is, political power is how many professing Christians think they can win the world to the Lord. But little do they realize that they are using this same political power to propagate injustice. Is this really what Jesus would call a “Christian nation” to do?
Jesus and the Immigrant
When you have a moment, read the birth narratives in the first chapters of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). You find an interesting little detail about our Savior’s family that needs to be acknowledged. Jesus was an immigrant.
At a very young age, His family was forced to leave their hometown because of a genocidal king. This madman was killing children ages 2 and under. Jesus’ family moved to two different countries during His early years (and considering the edict that was out, I doubt they crossed the borders by going through whatever legal means were necessary).
Something else that must be acknowledged is regarding Jesus and His ministry. He spent most of His time meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the political, social, and religious outcasts. He healed lepers; He interacted intimately with drunks, fishermen, tax-collectors, and other sinners; and, to a lesser degree, He started a revolution among those who had little to no political power in His day. So if Jesus was on American soil in 2006, who would He spend His time ministering to?
The Church and the Immigrant
If you answered homosexuals, illegal immigrants, and other such people, you are correct. If you answered some other way, I’ll let it slide if you can Scripturally prove it. And if Jesus spent the bulk of His time meeting the physical and spiritual needs of these “sinners”, who should His Church spend her time ministering to?
I am a firm believer that the Church’s first priority in regards the world around us is to represent the Messiah faithfully and accurately. I believe this to be the main thrust of what He was speaking of when He gave us The Great Commission at the end of His earthly ministry. He told us, in part, to “make disciples of all nations, baptize[e] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [and teach] them to observe all that [he has] commanded.”
The only way that we can rightly make disciples, or apprentices, of Jesus is to properly represent Him to the rest of the world. This means that the church’s first priority toward the illegal alien is to meet their physical and spiritual needs. This radical idea forces those of us who claim to be Christians to ask some very hard questions.
Regarding Social Security, we must ask ourselves, “What would Jesus ask His followers to do with their Social Security?” I believe that Jesus would ask His followers to give it to someone in need. I believe that He practically commanded as much when He said,
…Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. (Luke 18:22b ESV)
Regarding punishment for the breaking of the laws of the land, we must ask ourselves, “How would Jesus punish these law breakers?” I don’t believe that He would, and I do not believe that He would call His people to do so either. Remember the story about the woman caught in adultery? If not, it goes something like this:
Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.
The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8:1-11 The Message)
The administering of punishment for the violation of the law has been removed from our hands. “The sinless one from among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Are any of us sinless? No. Only the Messiah was sinless, and what did He do? He forgave her and showed her a new way to live. This should also be our response to the fact that these men and women have broken the law as well. We should embrace them, forgive them, and show them a new way of living. We should also be looking out for their well-being, and this would mean showing them the benefits of going through the citizenship process that has been established for this nation.
There are many other questions that must be asked. No one can answer them for you. I only here provide you with some food for thought.
The church should be seeking to be the Rabbai’s representative on this earth, and in this nation. If we are going to claim to be “Christians”, then we must live up to what that name demands. And it demands that we look like Christ. The Messiah would forgive. The Christ would “live generously.” Can we not do the same?