Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jesus people need to look at immigration reform differently

As followers of Jesus Christ, are our lives and the politics of our lives different than those of any other American?  I believe way too many of us have decided that simply following a party line on all issues makes for faithful following of Jesus.
After my picture post of how I envision the kingdom of God, I got some push back of which I didn't post several comments.  I replied with my perspective in a comment of my own, but it was really insufficient in terms of depth and thoughtfulness.  Whenever we talk about immigration reform, we need to look at the biblical text.  I'm not suggesting the biblical text directly answers the question of immigration and particularly illegal immigration.  I don't believe the biblical text is an answer book for all questions of life.  But.

I do believe the biblical text tells us how to live as God's people in the midst of the culture in which we find ourselves.  Regardless of time or place, the biblical text speaks to us.  It demands that we live a certain way in our time and space.  While we need to uphold the laws of our land, we also need to uphold our commitment to the biblical story. Following Jesus means that we have hopes and dreams and an understanding of reality that is different than those who don't believe in the resurrection. Living as people who hold the image of God, even if it is tainted, means that we are to live differently.  A good friend of mine read a portion of the biblical text last night, and I couldn't help but imagine what it means for the issue of immigration reform. The particular text reads...

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [Galatians 5:22-25]

It's interesting how Paul places "Against such things there is now law" immediately after mentioning the fruits of the Spirit.  In other words, these are the ways by which we live as followers of Jesus Christ.  We don't refer to the U.S. law; we don't refer to immigration laws; we don't refer to the law of Arizona when we consider the issue of immigration.  No.  We refer to how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ.  It is this calling that shapes our politics and and our other life choices.  


Anonymous said...

But it doesn't mean we ignore National or State laws. I didn't read anything you wrote that indicates it is wrong for countries to create and enforce immigration laws.

I appreciate your perspective, but I don't think that followers of Jesus need to be against immigration laws or the enforcement of them.

I agree there can be now law against the fruit of the Spirit and Christians need to always nurture these fruits in their own lives. I'm just not sure how that contributes to a discussion of whether or not a nation can enforce their laws.

Thanks for the discussion.

Willis Davidson
Grand Haven

randy buist said...

I don't think that it's wrong for countries to create and enforce immigration laws.

With that said, some laws are unjust in a plurality of ways. It seems that the Arizona law is one law that is obscenely unjust. For people to be suspects based on their skin color goes against nearly everything this nations has stood for. It also goes against the biblical text.

If we are to be people of goodness and kindness, gentleness, and respect - along with love - then it is imperative that we don't simply create laws that protect us (as American citizens) from them (whoever they may be) for the sake of our own hopes and dreams.

We need to recognize that we are dealing with people created in the image of God. We need to realize we are dealing with families of people, and in some cases moms and dads could be deported while young children are given to government institutions.

I believe committed followers of Jesus should consider creating laws differently... when justice and mercy are both part of the picture.

Until we have immigration reform that holds justice and mercy and treats illegal people as humans, we will not have anything that followers of Jesus will be able to embrace.


randy buist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Do the Arizona laws actually say people are suspects because of the color of their skin or is that the media interpretation of it?

What do you think a follower of Jesus immigration law would look like?


Tyson said...

I love your blog, Randy. On the topic of illegal immigration, I would also add that God repeatedly calls for Christians to stand up for the rights of immigrants, widows, and orphans ... this theme is amazingly consistent throughout the Old Testament. Ezekiel 22:30 says that God is looking for someone to "stand in the gap" and fight injustice against these groups, lest His wrath be poured out against the land.

Many Christians unfortunately equate illegality with immorality, which is not always the case. In fact, sometimes the law of the land can be immoral, as shown in Isaiah 10:1-2.

My own views on immigration reform are that we should support something like President Bush proposed in 2007. I think that would be a just solution with benefits for everyone involved.

randy buist said...

Thanks for the thoughts Tyson! I appreciate your insights -- biblical insights isn't where Christians usually begin with this issue, and yet it should be. Perhaps this is part of our calling -- to begin this discussion from the perspective of the biblical text!

Blessings brother.

Anonymous said...

I really struggle with this. I appreciate the reminders of the Scripture passages that speak to how we as Christians are to care for the aliens in our communities, stand up for them be sure they receive justice, etc. I am just not sure how that specifically informs current political issues. (I am not implying that I don't know if it informs, just how is specifically does).

I wonder, are the US immigration laws/process unjust, and injustice we must stand against? And does the enforcement of the laws commit injustice? I know there can be tough things about them, but I honestly ask these questions. I wonder about injustice to those applying for entrance to the US legally and having to wait as resources are spent on those entering illegally, I wonder about other injustices that occur along these lines.

I would have no problem with granting amnesty and immigration process for those who would come forward. I just struggle with the quick moves I read that go from calls to justice and mercy and condemnation of specific laws.

I know I hear that Arizona is filled with devils right now because of the immigration laws, and I basically know I don't understand the nuances of what they are doing. Do you? I really don't know.


randy buist said...

I appreciate your struggle, and I know there are not easy answers to this complex issue.

I am well aware of current immigration law as well as its enforcement. I am also aware of the complex system by which people apply for immigration in this country.

To answer your questions a bit: Immigration law enforcement is unjust. It is carried out by the Department of Homeland security among other law enforcement agencies.

If you were to spend time in the latino culture of America, you quickly realize how much tension surrounds this issue and the reality of Homeland Security knocking on your door at any moment regardless how legal you happen to be.

As white Americans we don't mind this sort of thing, but we're mostly 'fine' with the status quo since it's not our issue.