IF JESUS WERE AN IMMIGRANT
A lot of people are talking about immigration and immigrants these days. Whether for or against; whether the gospel Jesus proclaimed and embodied has anything to do with it, and if so what; whether immigrants pose a threat to us, and if they do exactly what sort of threat—inconvenience, discomfort, danger, death; whether immigrants from some groups should be treated differently than others; whether immigrants from places predominantly Muslim pose more of a threat than those from other places—these and many other questions enliven or deaden the multiple media enveloping our lives these days. The Free Methodist Church offers a well-written, reasoned, biblically shaped and practical position on matters of immigration that I thoroughly affirm and commend to all followers of Jesus. You may find it here: http://fmcusa.org/scod/the-free-methodist-position-on-immigration/
In relation to all of the questions and concerns, I wonder if we might think differently about immigration matters if Jesus were an immigrant. Often our settled ways of thinking about issues, and therefore our responses to them, suffer disruption when we learn that the “issue” has happened to a loved one. No one I know champions divorce because everyone knows how devastating a divorce can be. But it makes a difference when it happens to you or others you love. It makes a difference, even if the one you love might seem at fault. Facts are facts and truth is truth, though both can be hard to establish, but it makes a difference when it touches, hurts, or destroys someone you love. That difference may not reduce the complexity of the issue, (indeed it probably will increase it). And that difference may not change conclusions you draw about the issue. Still, when someone you love suffers, it becomes more than an issue and it makes a difference in how you respond.
So, if Jesus were an immigrant, I wonder if we would be more aware how many there are—whether documented or undocumented and whether good, bad, or a mixture. They are many and from all over the globe. In some places, in fact, they are not just many but most.
If Jesus were an immigrant, I wonder if we would be more sensitive to others’ assuming the worst, assuming that because a few who lack current legal status are dangerous, they all are. In some places, in fact, the greater peril is that one could be mistaken for dangerous and people with guns might shoot first and ask questions later.
If Jesus were an immigrant, I wonder if we would come to think Jesus’s presence necessarily threatens our economy and security as a nation. Surely, our nation faces huge economic challenges and undoubtedly we have enemies who want to harm us. But if there were no immigrants, at least the ones without legal status, and all of them left including Jesus (for the sake of the argument), can anyone seriously think the economy would be, for that reason, on the road to recovery and everyone left would sleep more peacefully?
If Jesus were an immigrant, I wonder if he might catch our attention and make us think that most of the problems associated with immigration have little to do with the people and everything to do with government that will not govern and leaders that will not lead, and the lack of courage to pursue reforms or redesign systems without regard for political consequence.
The fact is: the immigration systems in the U.S. got broken a long time ago, and our leaders embraced denial as their primary strategy. The fact is, no one really thinks it works for any of the people who are affected—not for legitimate security threats, nor for legitimate concerns for jobs and economy, and certainly not for immigrants, more and more of them the children and grandchildren of immigrants who have only lived here and are more American than anything else, regardless of where their family came from years and years ago.
The fact is: Jesus cares about all these concerns, though with Jesus—if his view counts—it would be the last on the list whose primary well-being would claim his first priority of loving rescue and remedy.
The fact is: Jesus was an immigrant. He came to what truly was his own, John tells us, but his own refused to recognize and welcome him. One could rightly say, I think, that this refusal to welcome escalates to a point where the response of his own was a gruesome “deportation” out of the land of the living. But then, on the third day, there is a “hard re-set” of God’s creation and the Immigrant is back—to stay!
And, the fact is: Jesus the Immigrant remains resident among the last and least, and in our nation many of them belong to immigrant communities. I believe it should make a difference that the love of our lives stands among them, receives the treatment they receive, and longs for better ways that comport with God’s plan for all peoples and all places, as well as for ours.
It seems to me that all Christ-followers would want to advocate and even agitate for a total redesign of our immigration systems that actually will work. No one side or party is totally right among current players. But it strikes me as Jesus-imperative that this redesign happens.
Again, I commend the biblical grounding and the practical responses offered in this carefully composed response to the cluster of challenges and opportunities Jesus-followers currently have. http://fmcusa.org/scod/the-free-methodist-position-on-immigration/
As you read it you may just sense the presence of One who is both Immigrant and Immanuel peering over your shoulder. As you respond practically in some way consistent with the Spirit of Jesus and Word, you may just encounter this very One among some of the least