The immigration debate: Does Jesus matter?
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?
Christ in the Migrant
Jesus’ preference for the poor (sermon for January 28, 2007)
We Are Citizens of Another Nation
Tags: religious+right, religious+conservatism, borders, illegal+immigration, immigration+reform, immigration+law, Christian+immigration, Monte Asbury