God may love the refugee, but do I?

For the last two weeks or so the U.S. debate has centered on President Trump’s zero tolerance boarder policy.  Other than to voice criticism over the White House’s faulty use of Scripture to support the decision I have largely stayed out of the conversation (at least directly).  I am not sure that I can take credit for this silence, I feel as though my incessant need to talk was overruled by a divine grace to silence.  In fact, I have tried twice before to write this and after the first line I have quit realizing that I had nothing useful to say.  But, today I finally feel freed to say something, even if that something is only a word for myself to heed.

My concern for this rant is not how the U.S. should handle immigration policy, frankly that is a large convoluted subject and I am not prepared to address it.  (right here many might object that it is an important issue and it is particularly what amounts to state sponsored child abuse in taking children away from loving families to live with strangers in a foreign culture.  Yet, What has stopped me from addressing that topic is what is below and I have not sufficiently resolved that issue to work through to another.)  Rather, I am focused on how Christians seem to be taking up the argument.  One side seems to be saying, “So long as they cross their t’s and dot their I’s they can come in, but they better be willing to do things as we do them.”  The other side seems to be saying, “let them in and we will move over so they can have a spot to themselves.”  The first party justifies their opinion on God’s order and justice; while the second looks to God’s love particularly for the refugee.

What I have realized, and why I have been forced to step out of the fray, is that the second group is right theologically, God wants our order and justice to send love to those in need particularly the refugee, but I have heard little about the Church.  This second group who is petitioning the government for a reversal of policies seems content with allowing these poor suffering people to remain poor and suffering in this country.  I have not seen Christian organizations (e.g. churches) reorganizing to help provide for immigrants.  I am not aware of communities trying to partner with the government to sponsor families in need and help provide for them.  Granted I live in rural Ohio, not exactly the hotbed of immigration, but I have contacts around the country.  I am sure that there are numerous churches who do partner with immigrants, not simply to provide worship space for immigrant services, but also to help immigrants with physical needs while they transition to a new home.

I truly believe that in the life of the church we are called to welcome the immigrant and to grow and change as that immigrant grows and adapts.  I try to read about the plight of immigrants and refugees, I pray for them frequently; yet, I am growing increasingly aware of how little I am prepared physically to help their transition into this country.  I want the U.S. government to be more welcoming, to open the boarders and eliminate much of the red-tape.  However, I want the churches to be prepared for this influx of poor and needy people who will need help making the transition to a new home.  Those of us who call on the government to make room for the immigrant must be prepared to help, not simply with tax dollars, but out of our resources.  We must be prepared to help feed, clothe, house, transport, educate, and be a liaison for those who respond in need.  Those of us who live in areas where there will be lower numbers of immigrants must be willing to pattern with churches who will bear the brunt of the burden.

I enjoy thinking about the Scriptures which speak of God’s love, such as: “ For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deut. 10:17-19 NIV).  But, this comes with a cost, I must also recognize the principle embedded in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Church is Christ’s body and the means by which he demonstrates his love to the world.  I cannot expect the U.S. government to be loving to the immigrant, the alien, or the refugee if I am not, as a member of the Church, prepared to outdo the U.S. government in love.  I can resist the indefensible use of Scripture by some in elected offices to justify their actions, I can pray and work to change myself and my community to be in a position to help (and I should and must do these things).  But, I must also be careful to recognize that if I am not willing or in a position to act the part of a loving God then my use of Scripture to condemn the policies of the U.S. government are not (if any) more valid than those I heard from Attorney General Sessions.  God does not simply want me to create a small space within my country for the newcomer to reside in untouched, God wants me to incorporate that newcomer into the body and life of Christ.  Yes, I want immigrants and refugees to be allowed to stay, yes I do think that it is wrong and harmful for children to be separated from parents simply to prove they need asylum, yes I will try to point out the legalities and loopholes within the U.S. immigration system to educate people as I have been educated, and yes I will work to be prepared to take in that refugee.  I just hope and pray that I and all of those who use Scripture to protest the immigration policy of the United States live up to the standard we are seeking, to care for those who enter, because if we do not we are not welcoming them either.

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The Biblical World

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Allan R. Bevere

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