Friday, June 25, 2010
These days it seems that Americans are becoming more and more polarized over the issue of illegal aliens and their impact on our economy. What I find most sad is how many followers of Jesus are siding with their political party on this issue rather than taking God’s Word into consideration.
In Exodus 22:21 God says, "Do not mistreat the alien or oppress him, for you were once aliens in Egypt". Doesn't that mean that God expects His people to show compassion and love to those who live as strangers among us? Even those who are – in the same way that the Jews were in Egypt – oppressed, mistreated, abused, and treated as slaves should receive special treatment from the people of God.
In any debate, we should find ourselves always on the side of the weak, and the oppressed, not on the side of the rich and the strong and the powerful. Jesus set us an example. He was a friend of sinners. He was found hanging with drunks and prostitutes and lepers. We should be found where Jesus was found most often – among the oppressed and the forgotten.
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." – Romans 12:16
Someone once suggested to me that it would be appropriate for Churches to issue Green Cards to new converts immediately after baptism in order to remind them that they are resident aliens in this World.
Jesus agreed with this idea of Christians as immigrants when he said, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (John 17: 15-16)
Followers of Jesus need to align themselves more closely to the outcast, the poor, the sick, the illegal alien, and the elderly. We should befriend those who are dying of cancer. We should comfort those who are suffering from aids. We should have more in common with the weak in our society than with the strong.
We are not of the world, any more than Jesus was of it. So, why do we continue to support the power structures of this world?
Obviously, these words from Jesus suggest that we need to examine our own materialism, our pursuit of fame, our desire for money and our love of self. But I also believe that this verse says something about our basic sense of identity.
As we argue over the dinner tables – or the blogsphere – about these issues of immigration reform and the laws being passed in Arizona against illegal aliens, I am disturbed to hear no Christian voices speaking out about our need to see ourselves in the faces of those who are oppressed.
The truth is that we are more like these resident aliens than we realize. These people are – like us – strangers and aliens in this place. So, why are we not out there marching alongside them, asking for them to be treated fairly and seen as worthy human beings who deserve the same chances we've been given?
I will admit, this is an especially difficult issue for people of faith. On the one hand we have laws of the land that should be enforced, but at the same time we have people who are working harder than we are, doing things most of us would not do, for less money than we would ever consider working for, and paying taxes and social security that others will enjoy and they will never collect. Where is the greater injustice being done? Does anyone defend this injustice with the same passion as they defend the rights of the middle class or corporations?
As followers of Jesus, this is not a political issue for us. I know for many others that this is purely a political issue. But, for us it cannot simply be a Republican or a Democrat debate. We have to look to our Lord and our Master. We must consider the code of the Kingdom of God which is our true home, not the party line or the American way. We are the descendants of a Body that has always been counter cultural and Kingdom-minded. Our vision must be focused clearly upon Jesus our King and our feet must walk where He walks.
Again, this isn't about your political opinions or attitudes as much as it is about how you - as a follower of Jesus - actually put your faith into practice.
The Church today is more American than Christian. We are largely unable to divorce our faith from our nationalism. This, to me, is very troubling because it means that we are unable to understand Jesus and His teachings apart from our own cultural context.
To help American Christians understand how this Americanized Christianity can blind us I have often tried to ask followers of Jesus to realize that the vast majority of our brothers and sisters on the Earth are not living in America. This means that many of them are following Jesus in nations like Korea, Africa, Russia, China, and other countries with radically different political ideas. So, if someone comes to Christ in China, for example, does that mean that they also – upon receiving Jesus – suddenly become a Capitalist? Of course not. The decision to surrender your life to Jesus and follow His teachings and example does not make you an American. We have to try to conceptualize - and practice - our faith apart from our patriotism.
We have to begin to admit the possibility that one can be a Christian without pledging allegiance to the flag, or the nation for which it stands. In fact, I believe that we must strive to see Jesus as clearly as possible - apart from our cultural, political and nationalistic filters. I also believe that our posture towards the poor and the outcast should be modeled after our Lord Jesus, not out of some political worldview.
Our hope – as followers of Jesus – is in the power of the Gospel to change hearts. It is not in the power of politics to legislate morality and create a Theocracy.
Jesus told us, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:19).
This verse is especially troubling to me. It makes me ask myself, "Does the World hate me?" or even worse, "Do I hate the World?" Now, I don't mean "hate" in the sense that I should hate other people, but do I hate the system, the consumerism, the focus on the flesh rather than the spiritual? Do I hate it when I see the stranger and the alien in our land being oppressed and mistreated? Does it cause me to remember that I am also not of this world?
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4)
The Governments of this planet are of this world, they are not of God. Our allegiance is to Jesus alone. His Kingdom is our only true homeland.
We, as followers of Jesus, should be comfortable among the ranks of the misunderstood, the hated, the outcasts and the despised. We should go out of our way to embrace those who are, like us, on the margins of this world. That means the poor, the prostitutes, the unpopular, the prisoners, and yes, even the undocumented immigrant.
Even if we cannot bring ourselves to skip work and carry a sign of protest in the streets to show our support, perhaps we could at the very least offer up a word of prayer to ask God to bless these aliens in our midst? Perhaps, eventually, we might even come to see these people as fellow outcasts and unwanted immigrants who are more like us than we might think.
Are you a follower of Jesus? Can I see your Green Card?