No one can say God doesn’t care about immigrants… This is the civil rights issue of our time.
— Dr. Carl Ruby
It is estimated that, at a minimum, there are 12-14 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Each of these people was created in the Image of God, yet our culture all too often treats them as nothing but nuisances and criminals. God’s heart for the alien is depicted rather clearly in Scripture; therefore the heart of His Church ought to be seeking alignment with His and leading the way in addressing this pertinent issue.
It is very evident that Jesus loves aliens. One example of this during Jesus’ life on Earth noted by Dr. Carlos Campo was when Jesus met the woman at the well as described in John 4. Though maybe not necessarily obvious, cultural research (as claimed by Dr. Campo, not a result of my study) reveals that no average citizen went to the well at noonday unless he or she was somebody who did not want to be found. An analogous reality that should be existent is the Church meeting and loving aliens in the U.S. today who seek to stay under the radar for fear of imprisonment or deportation.
Another prominent Biblical text mentioned during Shane Claiborne’s talk to note is the narrative of Ruth. Ruth was an outsider and a nobody in her culture. Yet she was accepted and sought out by what one of the most prominent members of society. Likewise privileged white middle-class Christians ought to seek out and show compassion on the aliens and “least of these” (Mt. 25:40) in our land.
Alejandro Mandez challenge the Church in North America to embrace the fact that being a Christian often requires getting involved in other people’s troubles. He referred to Paul’s treatment of the foreign slave Onesimus. Paul advocated on behalf of Onesimus that the people would treat him like a brother and to place any debt he owes on Paul’s tab. Mandez’s conclusion was that when the Church has done these two things for our alien brothers, we have done all we could do, but not until then. There is an unfortunate divide in the American Church between hands-off charity and relational love.
The general consensus of the conference speakers is important to note. They are not advocating that undocumented immigrants are not actually breaking the law. They are. However, the Church must realize that the system is broken, and campaigns like CCIR (Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform) are pushing for an overhaul of the United States immigration policies. At the other end of the spectrum, the Church must be living as Christ in loving the alien as ourselves.
Lastly, it is vital to remember, as Claiborne reminded us, that all Christians are, in a sense, undocumented immigrants. We all required Somebody to escort us, those that have broken the Law, into His Kingdom; nobody is capable of entering by their own ability. We need a Coyote who knows the way through the desert. The analogy breaks down in the joyous sense that our Coyote is the figurative President of the land, and we did not have to pay him a cent.
Galen Carey proposed some excellent applications for the Church as a result of what was revealed at the conference. First and foremost, we must celebrate the sovereignty of God over all things. Also, we must understand that this issue of immigration will be a problem that outlives our lifetime; it will not go away. Our response, then, as Christians should be to educate ourselves on the issue with discernment and without bias, reach out personally to immigrants in our community, and to pray and act towards comprehensive reform of the system to bring to fruition God’s desire for social justice in His Kingdom.