My last article about the yard sign welcoming people of different nationalities drew the most reaction of any blog I have written. (Scroll down to the previous entry to review my original comments.) I appreciate the effort so many made in writing back and wanted to summarize your comments.
Reactions fell into two categories. The first was affirming the importance of loving all people but confirming that laws must be obeyed. A few writers pointed to Romans 13 where Paul admonishes obedience to those in authority, a teaching that reinforces Jesus’ statement about fulfilling rather than abolishing the law (Matthew 5:17). My first draft of the blog actually referenced Romans 13, but I deleted that part because the article was running long and also because the topic was how Jesus would react to the issue of immigration, and, of course, Paul was not Jesus. But those of you who pointed to Romans 13 astutely recognized that obeying the law is a consistent Christian theme.
The second set of comments dealt with an aspect I didn’t specifically address: the legal status of people from other countries. Several readers pointed to the financial implications of essentially welcoming anyone and everyone into the country. One person noted that we are a country governed by laws and that we have specific mechanisms for changing laws that we don’t like or have become obsolete. I completely agree with his contention that we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore.
Some of you mentally inserted the word “illegal” in front of the concept of people from other nations. I specifically avoided that term because my intention was to consider how we should react to every individual we meet, regardless of whether they follow human laws or God’s standards. Remember, Jesus did not harshly reject the woman caught in adultery, but neither did he condone her actions (John 8). He is the original role model for “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
Perhaps the most interesting comment came from a LinkedIn reader:
I agree with what you write, but here in Sweden we find that immigrants and the second generation don’t respect our laws because they don’t stem from Allah. It’s so sad that everything has turned into such a mess when we just wanted to help them.
So, this is, indeed, a complex issue.
Here’s the bottom line. When Christians encounter someone from another country or culture in the supermarket, the workplace, or the neighborhood – as well as people with lifestyles we may disagree with – we must react in the “Jesus way,” demonstrating love and compassion for them as individuals. Whether or not they got here the right way or whether they are trying to live according to God’s standards should not enter into our personal interactions with them.
This is not to say they should get a pass if they have skirted the law. What happens in that realm is governed by our legal system. In our personal interactions, however, we must treat them in ways that exhibit the love of Christ. How could we do any less?