Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Detained: Loving Migrant Children

Detained.  57,000 unaccompanied children from Central America, specifically Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have crossed the US border and many have been apprehended since October.   Thousands are currently living in detention centers at our southern border awaiting trails to determine their fate, remain in the United States or return to their home country.  Our government officials seek solutions to the myriad of problems caused by these migrant children. 

I believe we need to have laws governing our borders and people should obey these laws.  Our government officials have a complex and complicated job before them.  I have no idea how to solve this situation, nor do I care to engage in a policy debate.  I do care to discuss how we, as Christians, should care about the people, the children, involved. 

Americans have every right to be vocal about their concerns and suggestions for solving this problem to Congress.  However, I believe we don’t have the right to speak harsh words about the immigrants. 

Jesus gave us the greatest commandment, which we find in Luke 10:27-28, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. The second part of this commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  And neighbor is not exclusive to the person who lives next door to you or the people on your street.  Neighbor reaches beyond fellow Americans.  Neighbor actually means any other person.  If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to love people in spite of their race, religion, or immigrant status. 

Did you know that God gave the Israelites specific instructions for dealing with immigrants?  While he was establishing his people he knew to address the issue of immigration and he did not establish a governmental policy, rather a moral and ethical one.

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 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.  Leviticus 19:33-34

God calls his people to not mistreat the foreigners, to not hurl insults at them, to not tell them over and over again to learn to speak English, and to tell them they are not welcome in their city.  Rather, God says to love them.

It can be difficult to love those we don’t understand or with whom we can’t relate.  This may be why God points out in verse 34 that the Israelites were once foreigners in Egypt.  The Israelites can recall the many ways they were mistreated in Egypt for 400 years and how they desperately cried out to God for deliverance. 

I know it can be difficult to have compassion on these immigrants because we may not be aware of their situations and we are comfortable enjoying the pleasures of living in America and desire to protect our country.  Would you take a moment with me and consider what it must be like to walk in their shoes?

What sacrifices do you make to provide the best life for your children?  What sacrifices would you make if your family lived on $2 a day? 

What sacrifices would you make if your daughter could receive only three years of schooling and every day of those years as she walked to school she was in danger of being sexually violated?  What sacrifices would you make if you knew the only future your son held was to join a drug cartel or run the risk of dying by the hands of the drug lords? 

What if the process to immigrate to a new country legally took more than seven years?  Would you wait it out?  What would you do to give your child a life and a future?  Would you send them on a thousand mile journey knowing you would spend a lifetime separated from your baby?

I think about Jesus, the one I am following, the one I want to be like.  Jesus, the immigrant.  Jesus, the refugee.  Perhaps you remember the story?

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2: 13-14
Jesus and his family fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s plan to kill him and every male child two and under.  I wonder what happened at the Egyptian border?  I wonder how Jesus was treated as a foreigner living in Egypt?  I wonder what would have happened had Mary and Joseph waited to file all the necessary paperwork required for legal immigration status?

I think it is safe to assume Jesus and the rest of his family encountered some mistreatment in their new country. I make this assumption because He was mistreated as an immigrant here on earth to the point of severe beatings and death on a cross.  Jesus was not only a refugee living in Egypt but an immigrant traveling from heaven to earth. He left his home country, heaven, to live on earth with us to point us to our real home and our real citizenship. 

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; - Philippians 3:20

The truth is if we are followers of Jesus we are all immigrants.

Again, I know we need a solution to the border problems, as there are many areas of concern with so many children making the long trek to America and living in detention centers. But, I hope we can remember we are citizens of heaven and we need God’s perspective and love for immigrants.

May I encourage you to take some moments and set aside government policies and consider the personal plights of these people?

May I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you love your neighbor, all others, as you love yourself?

May I encourage you to pray for God to give wisdom to our leaders to make good decisions on behalf of our country and the immigrants?

Perhaps you would join me in praying, Lord, your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.            

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