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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Love the Stranger

God does.

Immigrants and Immigration (3)

“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

Begin here
I rather suspect, given the present crisis of immigration, that immigrants, and especially “illegal aliens”, are near the bottom of the list of most admired people in this country.

Much less, loved.

At least some of this contempt is understandable. But that does not make it acceptable. To despise, resent, or condemn immigrants is only what we might expect in a society where they are regarded as a serious challenge to economic security or political stability. But in an economy driven not by profit but by justice and love, we must not be content with this view.

We may neither understand nor feel completely at ease with people from other countries—with their different languages, garb, customs, and traditions—but as Christians who walk in the Law as Jesus did (1 Jn. 2.1-6), we must love them. If we do not love the strangers and sojourners in our midst, even those who are here illegally, we will not be able to contribute to making just policies concerning them. And, more importantly, we will not represent God’s attitude toward strangers and sojourners.

This burden falls with a heavy thud on the doorstep of the churches of the land.

People come to America for a variety of reasons, most of them, at least these days, related to the opportunity to pursue safety and material wellbeing. As we have seen, the idol of material wealth has largely replaced the God of Moses and Jesus as the deity of choice all over the world.

But what some may regard as the selfish motives of immigrants and illegal aliens does not excuse the people of God from loving the strangers in our midst. Our calling, the second great commandment, is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and do unto them what we would have them do unto us—regardless of their country of origin or legal status.

Love and justice
Increasingly, the debate about the immigration crisis tends to be polarized between those who regard the massive waves of immigrants as a potential political force and those who think of them as a criminal class. The one view is exploitative, the other is dismissive. Neither of these views will be helpful in crafting just public policies.

It is doubtless true that many of those who come here are drawn by the opportunity for freebies of various kinds or to practice their nefarious designs for greater profit or political advantage. We do not condone such motives, and we must not support them as matters of public policy; but neither must we fail to love those who have come among us because of such motives.

But loving our neighbors does not mean simply shrugging our shoulders and accepting whatever they want to do. The laws that govern the orderly lives of all citizens must apply to immigrants as well. We love our neighbors when we seek justice for them, and when we work to help make them contributors to a just society. Justice, as we have seen, is the result of obedience to just laws. If we love our neighbors, we will seek to create a society in which justice flourishes, and to which all may expect to make a meaningful contribution. Justice—neighbor-love—may at times require retribution toward some of these our neighbors, including deportation. Even then, however, we must not mete out punishments vindictively, but with a view to teaching justice and restoring justice to those who are to be punished, as well as to the society.

Leading the way
In the matter of public policy relative to immigrants and immigration, Christians must lead the way with thanksgiving to God and concrete gestures of love toward our neighbors. Such an approach begins in worship, where we acknowledge and rest in the sovereign goodness of God, and where we must not fail to welcome strangers and sojourners to become part of our worshiping family if they so choose.

Beyond that, other practices which churches might take up together could include providing food and clothing, temporary housing, instruction in English language, helping with job training and finding work, and much more. Such gestures of love, demonstrated by congregations everywhere, would position the Church to join and perhaps even to lead the public policy debate.

Wherever churches can establish means of helping the strangers and sojourners in their communities—without, of course, breaking existing laws—they should do so gladly and with thanksgiving. Let the policies and practices of our churches be the harbingers and prototypes of what governments might do throughout the land.

Once Christians have begun to model neighbor-love for the strangers in their midst, they must insist that civil government at all levels reflect more of the holiness and righteousness and goodness of God’s Law in all their policies respecting immigrants and immigration. The prospects of change here must be undertaken with the long view in mind, with vision, patience, and determination. God loves the sojourner, and to the extent that the laws and policies of this land do not reflect that attitude, Christians must work to discover ways of reflecting that love more consistently through the engines of public policy.

For reflection
1. Are you aware of any programs on the part of churches in your community for helping immigrants?

2. How has the present immigration crisis affected your community?

3. If churches will not love the strangers and aliens in our midst, who will?

Next steps—Preparation: See what you can find out about the needs of immigrants in your community or county, and add those needs to your prayers for them.

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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