Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How the Church can Fuel Immigration Reform that Demonstrates Biblical Justice

"Do not exploit the foreigners that live in your land. They should be treated like everyone else, and you must love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I the Lord, am your God." - Leviticus 19:33-34

The Old testament book of Leviticus is rich with instruction for God's people regarding holiness. Being a people set apart for the one true God had both individual and social ramifications that equally demonstrated His holiness and justice. In this passage, the community of faith was being instructed that how we treat the alien is in reality, an issue of holiness. If God is holy, then we reflect His holiness when we love our neighbor as ourselves, even our neighbor who is here as a stranger, and foreigner, or an alien.

It is amazing that we are to go so far as to treat these 'outsiders' as if they were permanent residents (just like us) - no distinction is to be made. And, we are to love them (these aliens), as we love ourselves.

Can you imagine if every authentic follower of Christ were to live this out today? Can you imagine if instead of being uninformed and apathetic in regards to the needs of millions of undocumented residents who live and work in our nation's 'underground economy' with few rights and no handouts, we would decide to take an active role in advocating for the just treatment of our alien neighbors who we are called to love?

Millions of believers from every denomination and ethnicity acting as champions of justice for our neighbors could fuel a revolution of justice. We could change laws to assure that men, women, and children who can demonstrate that they will be good, law abiding, wage-earning, tax-paying citizens, can have the opportunity to come out from under the shadows of our current system and pursue a legal process to becoming full citizens in our nation.

I know that there are millions of questions regarding how to do this, and hundreds of arguments that must be had in order to reach fair and reasonable policy solutions to the complex issue of immigration reform, but what I see in this Leviticus text, is that followers of God ought to be leading the charge and fueling the flames of compassion and justice.

As a pastor for many years, I have been heavily involved on the compassion side, offering to help new immigrants in any way possible regardless of their legal status. Today, I am seeing that along with these individual acts of compassion, I must also be engaged in changing the laws of our land that handicap and cripple millions of immigrants who come across our borders at great risk because they feel they have no other options.

There is a new immigration bill that has been introduced in congress , S-1033 sponsored by Senators McCain (R) and Kennedy(D), and Representatives Kolbe(R), Gutierrez(D), and Flake(R), that needs to gain support in order to have a chance of becoming law.

You and I can call our representatives urging them to support this Act. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Refugee Rights has great information on their website at that can help you to take action.

Also, there is a bill called the DREAM Act that should be acted upon immediately that supports the process of helping High School students who are here undocumented, and are ready to enter a 2 or 4 year college, to be able to do so paying in state tuition rates, and to eligible to apply for and receive federal financial aid. Upon graduation, they would be given the opportunity to become permanent residents. This seems to be such a reasonable first step to helping some of the most vulnerable immigrants in our nation, and the most promising new citizens (HS and college grads ready to work and contribute to our nation as good citizens). Imagine how much impact we could have if people of faith were to champion this DREAM Act? Isn't this truly loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and our children?

Finally, beyond the social and humanitarian and justice aspects of being advocates for our foreign neighbors, can you imagine the amazing spiritual revival that could be ignited by a clear and decisive demonstration of love and compassion towards our undocumented neighbors! Then, when we spoke about revolutionary love of Jesus for everyone (which is what we say) our message might actually have some bite, especially in the Latino community.

What a challenge for us today, to treat the alien as if they were one of us, and to actually show them love as we would want to be loved ourselves. Now that would fuel a mestizo revolution unlike anything we have ever seen in our lifetime.


Post a Comment

<< Home