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A Call to Thanksgiving

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Immigrants and Immigration (2)

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10.17-19

A nation of immigrants
America is a nation of immigrants. This certainly is so. Even the native populations, who have largely been displaced by immigrants from Europe and elsewhere, originally journeyed to the “new world” from their homes in Asia. These “first peoples” are as much the descendants of immigrants as the rest of us.

Immigrants have always been a feature of the American landscape, and we may expect that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. Immigration has been God’s plan for populating the western hemisphere with a creative and energetic mix of peoples He has wondrously gifted in many ways.

What does this tell us about America?

At the very least it indicates that this nation is, and always has been, a desirable place. Its wealth of resources, beautiful and expansive lands, and abundance of opportunities have appealed to people from all over the globe. No other nation in history has captured the thrall and hopes of people from so many different parts of the world.

The continuing press of immigrants into this country should serve as a reminder to Americans that, of all the nations of the world, our country has been most abundantly and lavishly blessed of God.

A renaissance of gratitude?
This observation did not escape the notice of previous generations of Americans as they reflected on the goodness of God to this country. Love of country and gratitude to God have gone hand-in-hand through the course of American history.

But the present blight of narcissism, tribalism, and entitlements has turned many in this country mean, cynical, self-serving, and ungrateful. The hearts of too many Americans simply are not inclined to give thanks. Even our national holiday of Thanksgiving has become a day of self-indulgence, sports and commercial distractions, and an excuse for not having to go to work.

And the recent waves of immigrants, unlawfully admitted across the southern border and shipped out to every sector of the land, has only increased the meanness of many.

But has our outrage at the scofflaws who created this tsunami of immigrants blinded us to the opportunity for giving thanks this situation presents? Are we so busy being angry, resentful, and fearful that we have forgotten Whose hand shapes the king’s heart and rules the course of events on earth? And have we failed to see and give thanks for the unprecedented Kingdom opportunity inherent in this situation?

Yes, there are problems and even dangers. But we are poor disciples if we cannot hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, telling us that He has other sheep to bring into the fold, and He must go and get them and bring them to His Church (Jn. 10.16).

Gratitude and immigration
Some of us may struggle to thank God for immigrants, especially those who have arrived here illegally. But we must not fail to thank the Lord Jesus—in private and in public—for what the continuing stream of immigrants to this country represents: America is still, for all our failings and shortcomings, the nation most abundantly blessed of God of all the nations of the world.

And for this, every Christian should be more outspokenly grateful at every summons to thanksgiving that comes to our attention, including the present crisis of immigration. “In everything give thanks,” Paul insisted, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5.18).

The Christian community must not respond to the present crisis over immigration policy as, in the first instance, a matter of politics. If we do not lead the nation to remember that immigrants are indicators, first and foremost, of the continuing blessings of God on this nation, then we will struggle ever to be able to lead the nation in addressing public policies relating to this and other questions from a more Biblical perspective.

Responding to the crisis of immigration with thanksgiving may help us to recommend a new approach to crafting public policies more in line with the teaching of God’s Law. We do not deny that problems and dangers attach to this present chaotic policy. But immigrants are people, and most who have flooded our borders recently have come to find a more just society than they left, with greater promise and opportunities. Does it not make sense that they will gravitate to those who express gratitude to God for their being here?

Anyone can complain. Anyone can criticize. Anyone can condemn. Only the Christian, who sees the events and trials of this nation through the eyes of faith, can greet every crisis with an upturned eye and a bent knee. The flood of immigrants we keep hearing about is flowing this way because of the blessings of God. Insist on this, and thanks to God, and you may change the hearts of many around you.

And from there, from your posture of gratitude and faith, you might be able to share a bit more about what this wise and good God teaches about how to deal with the immigration crisis in this blessed land.

For reflection
1. How would you summarize your attitude toward immigration and immigrants? How have you come to this?

2. What might churches do to be more welcoming to and grateful for immigrants?

3. In your church, what could you do to begin a discussion about ministering to immigrants?

Next steps—Preparation: Make prayer for immigrants, and your church’s role in serving them, part of your regular prayers.

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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