Last month, my wife and I were blessed to be able to visit both sets of our married kids in Los Angeles. During one of my morning runs, I came across a yard sign with an intriguing message in three languages (Spanish, English, and a Middle Eastern language). The English said, No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.
“What an interesting sign,” I thought. “That’s a very nice sentiment.” But then, I immediately recognized the political overtones implied by including the two non-English languages. And it got me to thinking, if Jesus had a front yard, would he put this sign in it?
I both watch CNN/network TV news and listen to a few talk radio shows, so I am familiar with both sides of the “culture war” issues. This sign was obviously placed by someone who welcomes Hispanic and Islamic neighbors, implying a more progressive view toward immigration. Just because someone is Hispanic or is a Muslim doesn’t mean they have done anything illegal. But some Hispanics have broken immigration laws, and some Muslims (a very small percentage) espouse violence against Westerners.
So, would Jesus endorse this sign or not?
The anecdote from Jesus life that sheds the most light on this question is in John 8 – the account of the woman caught in adultery. You know the story. The Pharisees and teachers of the law haul an adulterous woman before Jesus, hoping he will say something that would allow them to claim he didn’t follow the Law of Moses. Of course, Jesus sees right through this and invites anyone who was sinless to pick up the first stone. None is, so none does. Once it was just Jesus and the woman, he tells her he didn’t condemn her either.
People of a more liberal bent tend to stop here. Their application of this story to many cultural issues tends toward the progressive side, and many would support a position that ignores current immigration laws and allow in anyone who wants to come to our country.
But not so fast. This position ignores the story’s concluding verse where Jesus tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.” So, although Jesus doesn’t condemn her, neither does he invalidate the laws against adultery. It’s the perfect illustration of the old adage, Love the sinner but hate the sin.
Sometimes, people of a more conservative bent – like the Pharisees and teacher of the law in this story – focus exclusively on upholding the law and fail to act lovingly toward individual perceived lawbreaker. But sometimes, people with more progressive inclinations seem to forget that Jesus never supported lawlessness. He said in Matthew 5:17 that he didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. The Old Testament laws regulated both religious and civic behavior.
So, where does this leave us? Would Jesus endorse this sign or not? I believe he would. But just like he calls everyone to obey the laws of God and man, he would not support behavior that breaks the law.
What do you think?