Given the writings of Paul, it seems clear that the church of Jesus Christ has had divisions, angry dialogue and exclusions since its inception. With global access to information and instant responses, there seems to be a multiplication of judgments, hatred, divisions and demeaning words. To see such things increasing in those who say they love Christ is very sad indeed.
It is a foundational truth in the Word of our God that all human beings since the beginning of time, have been created in the image of God, knit together by the Father’s hands in their mother’s womb. You will never meet an exception to this. Whether they are male or female or of another race, healthy or sick, citizen or immigrant, rich or poor, brilliant or limited – everyone, no matter their birthplace or capacity or unlikeness to you is an image bearer. No matter how we choose to treat another or what language we use to describe them this fact cannot be undone.
One of the (many) current and volatile dialogues today concerns the immigrants at our borders. It is without question a critical topic. However, some of our dialogue about this topic has frankly, been vile and grieves our God. Although we may not easily find a consensus regarding immigration, we can alter the way we dialogue – a change that might even spill over and bear fruit in other discussions.
Here are some thoughts:
- This is a very complex problem that needs attention both now and long term. It will require bright minds with knowledge, expertise and experience to come up with responses both short term and long term. I am certainly not one of those experts and neither, I suspect, are most of us. We can however, call on the government to find such people and have them think, suggest and inform those who have the power to develop wise policies and procedures both for now and for the future. The old ways are clearly not sufficient. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no wise guidance the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
- We might consider laying aside our reactivity. For example, expressing concern for immigrants is often construed as wanting open borders with no rules. It is, however, possible to be concerned about humans who are suffering and yet not think that porous borders is a wise solution. That is why wisdom and experience are necessary to think through these matters. How do we have compassion for immigrants and maintain the stability of our country at the same time. Choosing one without the other is neither wise nor good.
- A second reactive response seems to be that concern for the immigrants means you are naïve and ignorant of the fact that there are some bad folks mixed in with those truly suffering. We have predators, abusers and deceivers in our families, churches, schools and institutions. Of course there are some among the vulnerable and desperate ones seeking sanctuary! Such places are where predators often hide. And this fact alone should not lead to neglect of the vulnerable. In fact, it increases the urgency.
- While we are not government and not experts, we are the church, the body of our Lord. It is in fact, to be our primary identity. The collective/prophetic voice of the church is needed today on many fronts. And our voice is, above all else, to sound like the voice of Christ – not government, politics, personal preferences or anything else. The detention centers at our borders are full of image bearers – both immigrants and border agents alike. Both groups are being traumatized. I suspect many of the immigrants were traumatized before they came. Sadly, that trauma continues here. Agents are overwhelmed and without resources. They too are traumatized and either grieving or hardening their hearts so they can endure. On all fronts damage is being done to precious people made in the image of God.
- The immigrants lack clean water, food, clothing and a place to lay down and sleep. Those are familiar deprivations. “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked and you clothed me…what you have done for the least of these, you have done for me”. We are the body of our Lord here on earth. We are the present day Word made flesh. He has been exceedingly clear about what that looks like for his people. You and I cannot literally go to the borders and do these things. We can, however, use our collective/prophetic voice to call on government to insure this happens, to ask them to allow groups like World Relief, World Vision and many others who know how to care for the thirsty, the hungry and the naked, to go in and provide services. It will bring relief to the immigrants and also to the agents. 1 Government has a huge job to do. So do we. The voice that you and I are called to heed; the voice that is to overrule all others such as the voices of tribe, race, nation, politics, or fear, is the voice of our Lord saying this: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy (Proverbs 31: 8, 9).
- Our voices need to be used respectfully and kindly to one another. Our reactivity and rancor do not sound like our Lord. We also need to raise our collective/prophetic voice in obedience to our God who came, oh so graciously, to the least of these – you and me. Perhaps such unity on our part might bestow on the immigrants – whether they stay or leave – and on the beleaguered border agents, a brief whiff of the fragrance of our God who created and loves them all. That aroma will be the sweet fragrance of Christ inviting them to seek him no matter where they live. We know for sure that that aroma will please our Lord (II Corinthians 2:15).