I would hope that Christians would first put on biblical spectacles when approaching the issue of immigration. The biblical Christian would:

1. Begin with the conviction that illegal immigrants are persons made in God’s image and are, therefore, worthy of respect and dignity (Genesis 1:26,28).

2. Appreciate the fact that many of our spiritual ancestors were themselves economic refugees. Thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved from the Promised Land on several occasions in search of food (Genesis 12:10; 26:1; 41:57; 42:6; 43:1-7). The story of Ruth is the story of an immigrant who continually crossed national borders in search of food. Other spiritual ancestors of ours were pushed out of their homeland because of war or persecution (Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, and the baby Jesus). So immigration because of economics, war, and asylum seeking is not far from every Christian’s own heritage.

3. Specifically apply the Second Commandment to illegal immigrants: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

4. Care for immigrants since they had a central place in the laws and practices of ancient Israel. Israel was commanded to love immigrants because God loves immigrants. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

5. Be hospitable according to New Testament teaching which literally means to “love the stranger” or the alien (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Jesus commanded his followers to welcome people who had no social standing, such as the poor, the sick, and the outsider (Luke 14:12-14).

The ACLU has a “Preliminary analysis of the HB 87 ‘Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act'” that explains the Constitutional problems with this law.

HB 87, signed into law by Governor Deal, does not come close to doing any of those things pointed out by Rev. Nathan. In fact, most aspects of the law does just the opposite.

The law allows the local police to have almost unlimited power to stop, detain and arrest on the suspicion of a person’s immigration status. Let’s be honest here, it won’t be white people the police will be taking a closer look at.

This law does not have the first hint of having Christian morality attached.

Pablo Otaola, in a blog called Theology of Immigration, had this observation:

The history of immigration to the United States is the history of the country itself, and the journey from beyond the sea is an element found in American Folklore, appearing over and over again in everything from The Godfather to Gangs of New York to Neil Diamond’s “America” to the animated feature An American Tail (Rachel Rupin and Jeffrey Melnick, Immigration and American Popular Culture: An Introduction – 2006). Recent movies that speak to immigration, race and culture are The Namesake, The Visitor, Spanglish, A Day without a Mexican and others all which speak to the fact that there is a social awareness about issues with immigration that people want to dialogue about. Most movies and plays seem to have an overarching theme of sensitivity and amicability to racial differences and immigrant social justice issues that can be compared to God’s commandment to “love you neighbor as yourself,” but somehow these themes do not carry over in United States legislature with immigration laws.

As Christians, we are encouraged to “cast out all fear and replace it with unconditional love.” We must ask ourselves how this Georgia legislation promotes the love we are supposed to be living; the love we are suppose to be practicing; the love we are suppose to be sharing?

In today’s political climate, conservatives and progressives seem to agree on very little. But, as people of faith, we do have common ground.

Rev. Brain Clark, a conservative pastor of Calhoun First United Methodist, made an interesting post on his blog:

Despite the fact that undocumented persons contribute to the State tax base, bolster the agricultural economy, and keep local businesses alive, the real issue before the committee isn’t economic. The real issue is that Arizona-style legislation is both immoral and unscriptural. The legislation is immoral because it threatens to tear families apart, destroy the lives of countless children and youth already living productive lives in our communities, and does nothing to advocate for a fair earned pathway to citizenship. The legislation is unscriptural because it ignores the biblical mandates to love our neighbors, to offer forgiveness, and to treat others the way we desire to be treated. God loves the undocumented persons living among us as much as God loves every natural born citizen and calls us to treat them with love and respect. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (NRSV)

We cannot hide behind separation of church and state. We must consider where we stand. How do we love others? Is this love up to the standards set by Christ?

Brothers and Sisters, what is written in the scripture?

And a certain teacher of the law got up and put him to the test, saying,
Master, what have I to do so that I may have eternal life?
And he said to him, what does the law say, in your reading of it?
And he, answering, said, has love for the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;
and for your neighbor as for yourself.
And he said, you have given the right answer: do this and you will have life.”
–Luke 10:25-28

If we are to be a state where justice prevails, mercy is a priority and we have true equality, then we must not leave anyone behind; we must not leave any part of our community out.

Slicing and dicing families and turning them into fugitives from the law are not what our faith teaches in these matters.

Jesus came to proclaim good news for the poor. Right up to his death, he made himself one with the poor, including strangers. In this way he broke down the barriers that human beings erect and showed that the love of God is for everyone. It is correct to say that our treatment of the poor and of strangers is a test of how well we understand the Gospel of the love of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. In the parable of the Judgment of the Nations, Jesus exposes the ignorance, indifference and lack of concern that people show towards the least of those who belong to his family. And today, these words penetrate our minds too. No-one can say, “I didn’t realize…” Jesus says, “I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me.” How do we treat the stranger?

Apparently, in the State of Georgia the stranger will be arrested and those who help the stranger will be persecuted.

As a minister of the Gospel, we cannot let this law go un-challenged. As people of faith who dedicate our lives to “doing justice, acting mercifully and walking humbly with God,” we cannot and will not obey this law.

“An unjust law is no law at all”, said St Augustine, providing the foundation of civil disobedience movements across the world. If a law is not really a law at all, it is argued, one has a right — even a duty — to break it. Martin Luther King articulated this view in his Letter from Birmingham Jail: “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

We have signed because it is our moral responsibility and our duty to “walk our talk.”

 


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.

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