Whoever welcomes children welcomes Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. Who do you think was a neighbor to the man? The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Perfect love casts out fear. They will know we are Christians by our love. In Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek. Whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus.
I could keep going. The Bible is chock-full of texts that could be used as a lens through which to view those seeking to cross our borders. None of which justify separating families or arresting people for seeking asylum. If we assume immigrants and refugees are our neighbors, our call is to love them as ourselves. If Jesus’ instruction to welcome children is literal, then we should be welcoming children and not putting them in detention centers. If we want to say that those from other countries are foreigners, even then we should love them as ourselves in recognition that we were once aliens, refugees, foreigners, no people until we became God’s people.
If those coming to our borders are fleeing poverty or violence, coming with nothing, then I would say they might qualify as the least of these, as those who need food and clothing and shelter, and that means we are either among the sheep or goats depending upon our treatment of them. We are doing to Jesus whatever we are doing, or not doing, for them. Christians coming to the United States are part of the one Body of Christ. Therefore, we are united with them in Christ and when they suffer we should be suffering, too. No matter if they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or of no religious affiliation at all, they are created in God’s image and they will know we are Christians through our love, or not.
While disciples of Jesus are free to debate immigration policy and disagree about the “how” of welcoming and caring and loving those born outside our national borders, there is absolutely no room biblically to make a case that we should not welcome, care and love those born outside our national borders.
Jesus is Lord of all. Jesus died for all. Jesus came to save the world. There are no national boundaries to his concern: Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles, tax collectors, Pharisees, children, the centurion’s servant and the leader of the synagogue’s daughter, eventually the Canaanite woman — none were walled off from God’s mercy and grace. Religious rule enforcers complained that Jesus ate with sinners and healed on the Sabbath and let women of questionable morals touch him. Jesus persisted anyway. Love was more important than law and order. He was fulfilling the mission he professed that day he preached in Nazareth: proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind and setting the oppressed free. His hometown hearers didn’t like his exegesis of the text when he said this mission includes those outside of the people of Israel like the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. God’s loving kindness trumps all borders. The Lord’s favor isn’t limited to one group, tribe or region.
The congregation wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff for such claims. Is it any wonder many respond the same way today? We, too, operate out of fear, not love. We, too, have a mindset of scarcity, not abundance. We, too, want to be first when Jesus says those who want to be great must be last. We, too, want special status no matter that Jesus came to serve. We, too, want to build barns when Jesus says, “Sell all you have and follow me.”
I have no doubt that when we decide to follow, Jesus will lead us to detention centers, refugee camps, courtrooms and shelters. I have no doubt he is already there. The question for us is: Will we recognize him among the children, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman the Syrian, the Canaanite woman, Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch?
Grace and peace,