Early this week, the Rev. Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), commented on a recent position paper adopted by the NAE dealing with the issues surrounding immigration policy in the US and the presence of perhaps millions of undocumented persons in our nation. Anderson’s references to the policy statement (see http://www.nae.net/resolutions/347-immigration-2009) set off a firestorm of protest among conservative peoples, some of them Christians, alarmed at a policy of “amnesty” which they mistakenly see in the NAE’s position. Since then the FMC, as a member of NAE, has received a number of phone calls and faxes expressing dismay and alarm over our support of “amnesty” and all it portends in the minds of these protesters.
First, please read the statement on its own merits. The controversial sentence sparking the firestorm is presumable this one:
“That the government establish a sound, equitable process toward earned legal status for currently undocumented immigrants, who desire to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship.”
Friends, this is not a call for amnesty. This is a call for policy that is sound and equitable that would allow for earned legal status. If it is earned it is not amnesty, by definition. Furthermore, this is for persons desiring to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship. As such, it is not irresponsible and not contrary to any sound understanding of the Scriptures.
Indeed, there are many reasons for support of such a proposal. Consider the following reflections.
The scriptures tell earnest followers of Jesus, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God … “ (1 Peter 2:9).
If we are the new people God makes us (chosen), we will understand that our birth-race, tribe, culture, government can never trump the claims of our rebirth-race—as children and servants of God, members of the new humanity created by grace and pioneered by the embodiment of grace Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. We will delight in the Father’s pleasure to show the world how to be human the Jesus-way, how to find and actualize His way of dealing with the foibles and failures of the all but wrecked story—His-story—that he will surely bring to a very good ending, or new beginning. We will receive blessing and share blessing with all the families on earth.
If we are kingdom people (royal) we will seek first the interests of the king, indeed above all other interests. The King declares his love for all, and especially for the last and least, those for whom no one will speak or act. The King commands that we take care of the aliens and sojourners among us, for that is what we are—sojourners seeking a better country—when we are true to His call on our lives.
If we are the body of priests God calls his people to be, in fact, together constituting a priesthood for the sake of the many who do not know our God, the many who need to find some connection to the One who made and loved them and gave himself for them, then nothing will take priority for us than to be in position to sign-the-way to the true homeland of everyone our God claims as his own. No competing interest can deter the priesthood in the fulfillment of their sacred duties.
If we are truly a holy tribe, an out-of-this-world ethnicity living and serving the many other ethnicities and showing them that what they most seek comes not through strategies of self-seeking and striving, but through receiving what God freely and lavishly rains upon us, and then sharing with others, then we will find ways to give of ourselves as a primary means of helping others receive. We will commit to this way of losing ourselves in the pursuit of the others’ good, trusting God to see to their and our ultimate wellbeing.
For these reasons, we need have no fear but rather warm-hearted compassion for the many among us who are not documented. We will want to find a way to protect the vulnerable, the weak and the imperiled whatever their circumstances. We will seek to discover and bring to justice those who abuse and exploit them. In many though not all cases we will want to find some means of offering them a place among us, not in violation of the law, but within the framework of the law of our land that, at its best, always aims to protect those who live under threat no matter the particulars of their situation. In the faces of the strangers in our midst we will expect to see the Lord Jesus who chooses to be identified among the least of these—the homeless, the hungry, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Indeed, in relation to the strangers we have strategic opportunity to act for them as Jesus would, which will be good for them—now and later, and will position us to hear a final well-done from the One whose judgment matters most.