Love for neighbor should compel us toward immigration reform

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by Ferrell Foster — June 28, 2013

The U.S. Senate has shown both courage and wisdom in passing the sweeping immigration bill. In order to get bipartisan support, the bill had to reflect the concerns of people across the political spectrum, and this has resulted in a bill that addresses the needs of security, business and immigrants.

Scripture teaches us to care about the “stranger” in our midst, and it also teaches us the importance of honoring laws. As a result, those of us who are Christians can rejoice in the fact that these two principles are being honored.

We know, of course, that there are many good people, including Christians, who are concerned about significant immigration reform. Such concerns coupled with political considerations promise to make passage of similar legislation in the U.S. House difficult. But difficult does not mean impossible.

As we move forward, I hope those of us who seek to follow Christ will remember the Great Commandment, which is to love God with all one’s being and to love others the same as one loves self. This love is an active love that seeks the good of others whether or not they deserve it or will return it. We love others because they are created in the image of God and deserve all the dignity and respect that comes with it.

Politics functions on a different plain of practicality and political maneuvering, but politicians ultimately pay attention to the people they represent. The results of the last national election is what pushed us to this success in the U.S. Senate. The politics faced by House members is different; they are much more geared to satisfying smaller, more homogeneous constituencies. This is why it is so important that we individuals look at our attitudes and open ourselves to new possibilities.

There was a time in my personal life when I was strongly against immigration reform. It didn’t seem right to allow people who had broken immigration laws to be allowed to stay in our country. But I learned that the situation is much more complicated than that simple understanding admits.

The reality is that these “strangers” have provided needed services to the people and economies of the United States. They have paid their dues. It is American businesses and individuals who have given them jobs. They are now a part of us and should not be seen as strangers or illegal.

More importantly, as a Christian, I cannot see these friends from other countries as anything other than fellow children of God who desire to provide for their families and themselves. They are fellow strugglers, and many are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Partnership in Christ trumps all national and ethnic distinctions; those differences simply do not matter.

A nation’s laws are different from a person’s personal perspective, but in a democracy our individual values coalesce to form national, state and community values. And that eventually impacts our laws.

In 2007, Texas Baptists adopted a resolution about ministry to immigrants. It supported “ministries that show the love of Christ in practical ways to immigrants within the confines of the law and according to biblical mandates, including the work of the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC), English as a Second Language (ESL) ministries, the establishment of citizenship and civic classes for immigrants, and the efforts of our congregations to educate themselves and others about immigration ministry.”

There was great support for a call to such ministry. It seems the time has come for more than ministry. The laws of our lands have simply made it possible for the United States to take unfair advantage of these willing workers in our midst. They have earned a right to be a part of us, and our Christian love for them wants what is right.

We Christians are not powerless in the political process. If we will love the strangers in our midst, whether documented or undocumented, then we will want God’s blessings for them. And if enough of us want that, the politicians will eventually want it, as well.

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