The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

The immigration debate: Does Jesus matter?

with 5 comments

A pastor-friend emailed an article about the down-side of immigration.
Here’s an edited version of my response:

Dear _____ :

The most challenging thing for me about this debate is not what liberals or conservatives think, or whether immigration has been largely good or bad, or whether or not it’s in the economic interest of the American citizen. All those are important, I’m sure, but – since we are “citizens of another country” – I wonder if they are what matters most. I wonder if this question could be more important: What’s Jesus’ example?

For instance, I think of his interactions with Romans, Syro-phoenicians, Samaritans … all would be considered foreigners at the time (and the Romans certainly viewed as illegal, dangerous, and predatory). Those of Jesus’ countrymen who are most religious are furious because he offers care and attention to hated foreigners. Then he draws more animosity by sometimes commending these non-observant ones’ faith (“not in all of Israel,” to the Syro-phoenician woman), and using them as examples of true religion (e.g., the Good Samaritan), scandalizing the orthodox.

As the cross nears, Jesus vision collides more and more with his disciples expectations. They are certain Jesus will take command, enforce the Judean borders, throw out the Romans (probably the Samaritans, too!), and bring the nation to glorious regional dominance.

But he gets killed instead. Astounded, disappointed, they see him as a failure; they’re unable to grasp that national glory – even of the God-chosen nation itself – isn’t the way of God anymore; Jesus is changing everything.

Then Jesus appears, alive. From his first meeting with them he begins urging his followers to become immigrants as soon as the Spirit comes: “Go [to]… all nations …” And in just a little while, Jesus sends his Spirit on the church, choosing to do so on a day when Jerusalem is packed with foreigners.

Peter, filled with the Spirit, is soon he is breaking the law too, plunging into Cornelius’ immigrant household. Peter finally understands how Jesus lived: laws must be disregarded when they stand in the way of caring for people. And Peter dare not do otherwise, for he was commanded to do so in a vision from God himself.

And so, back to today.

It seems to me that Mexican immigrants—many of whom are desperate to find a way to feed their children—would be pretty high on Jesus’ list of people for us to pay attention to (as in, “Lord, when did we see you hungry?”) He’s the God of “the least of these.” He insists that serving the poorest is serving him; neglecting them, likewise.

If our values are the values of Jesus, wouldn’t we be cheering for laws that favor increased compassion for the poorest, rather than increased exclusion of them?

Best wishes,

Related posts:
“Christian values”
Christ in the Migrant
Jesus’ preference for the poor (sermon for January 28, 2007)
We Are Citizens of Another Nation
, , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

August 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Yes Monte, much of these problems are of the US governments making. It goes beyond NAFTA and crop subsidies, to the propping up of dictators by the US government in Mexico, south and central America. That has been happening for decades.

    The WTO and world back are the weapons our government has used to blow up the economy south of our border. The transnational corporations have been reaping huge profits from the enslavement of these people, then when they are then forced to flee north for economic reasons they’re just as enslaved by the economic and political ruling elite here!

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

    Monte says: Indeed. Just found this moving short video, which I think you might find use for: Sowing and Reaping – The Origins of Terror. Amazing!


    August 18, 2007 at 12:41 pm

  2. You beg a question. Where does obeying the laws that are in place have in priority to the truths of the gospel? Of course we evangelicals would say that the Gosepel always has priority. But those who follow Christ would not break those laws (those that do not ask us to forsake the gospel) of our own country as well as break the laws in other countries and demand that they hear our voices. The Gospel has does not spread through the use of the sword but by those who are on the receiving end of it. No doubt that as a father I have an obligation to feed and care for my family, but not at any expense. Our country is a nation of laws not of lawlessness. We serve a soverign and He is soverign even over the affairs of immigration. Where does Jesus stand on the immigration debate? How about where does He stand in regards to sin? How about where He stands in regards to the preaching of the Word. The redemptive work, the reconcilitory work and the work of justification of those whom have been called to beleive. I would say that the Gospel has all the answers. In my travels (2 tours in Iraq) I have seen abject poverty and despair as well as hope, but genuine hope always comes in the proclamation of the Word. Let me encourage you to (if you are a pastor) to hold fast to “Preach the Word.” Even when it is not popular. Thanks

    Monte says: Thanks, Wisecarver, for coming by. You have seen and experienced much, and I am grateful for your thoughts.


    August 17, 2007 at 10:21 pm

  3. Jesus couldn’t avoid the reality of foreigners coming in Judea land.As such that the coming of the foreigners such as US,Aussie or European added a chaos of nature and it’s complicated to solve their problem.They are like a Roman troops to execute the fail of an island of the hidden infidelity.Crucification on the hopeless land that did wrong copulating between them and foreigner that placed in hostilities.Jesus Christ cames into the world not for a peace but world war.What God’s plan ? And what mankind’s plan ? What the God promise ? For a silent room that the dead birds spread around the dark.

    Monte Says: Thank you, Karta, for leaving this comment. It is an honor to hear from you, and to have contact with someone from your nation.

    Karta Laksana

    August 17, 2007 at 10:17 pm

  4. As always a brilliant post Monte. This issue is one that rips me apart. I am all for serving the needs of everyone via school for their kids, housing and food assistance, medical care, etc. That includes those that come here without the required paperwork. I am against any law that would even try to put a stop to serving anyone in need.

    I am also for a sweeping reform of the INS. It is a crazy maze of paperwork that takes to long to file and makes it more likely that people will come here outside this failed process.

    However, I have seen firsthand how exploited undocumented workers are, so feel very strongly that something more must be done on this issue then letting the present system go unchanged and unchallenged. I was very much against the last bill in congress because “guest workers” will be nothing more then slaves. This is not good for anyone but the exploitive employers. How much longer will we let these people be forced to make bricks without straw?

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

    Monte says: Ah, ClapSo, your comment is brilliant. As always, the solutions are not simple, and there are people with many different motives pressuring law-makers. The people who have no voice are the workers themselves, tossed from one despair to another, on the caprice of politicians and those who fund them. Isaiah wrote “Defend the defenseless.” And you have taken the dialogue to where it should be in a civilized world: beyond merely backing off putting obstacles in the way of defenseless people, into advocacy on their behalf. I wrote from Reverse to Neutral; you shifted into Drive. Thanks!

    PS: and one wonders how much of this poverty is of US making via NAFTA or crop subsidies that result in American crops driving unsubsidized Mexican farmers out of business. It’s pretty hard-hearted to say, “We’ll rig commerce in our favor, suck money out of your country, and then tighten our borders when you get hungry.” Thanks, friend, you’ve encouraged me to keep at it once more.


    August 17, 2007 at 3:40 pm

  5. I am considered a liberal wingnut, but also a self proclaimed Christian who is for the rights of immigrants coming to America. After reading your entry I was deeply moved by the examples you pulled out of the gospels to address the topic of illegal immigration.

    It is true that Jesus did preach a message that should be followed by all human beings: Love thy neighbor. And the last time I checked a map, Mexico was our neighbor.

    Great entry. :)

    Monte says: Thanks, Dave! I appreciate your heart! You’re right about that message of Jesus – and it was part of what he said was the very most important thing, the core of the core of his message. How’d we ever get so mixed up?

    Went over to your blog and liked it a lot. Thanks for coming by!


    August 17, 2007 at 2:13 pm

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