Life is tough. It was tough for my grandfather 120 years ago; he was a 5-year-old immigrant from a poor family when he came to the US. It was tough when he joined the army 20 years later. He served in World War 1 and fought in Europe. As far as I know he never won many medals but he fought and led well enough as a lieutenant that at the end of the war the company he was with gave him a present worth several thousand dollars. I still have that present, a chest of silverware. He served his new country and served it well.
Immigrants have been good for America. Without Chinese immigrants, our railroads would have been slower in coming, Without Einstein the immigrant, Hitler and Germany would have gotten the atomic bomb first and we’d be living under Nazi rule. Without my grandfather to lead them, all the men in his WWI company might have been much. Shutting off immigration is bad for America and few people of any political party are suggesting we do that.
How are we American supposed to handle immigrants? Is there an answer from our Bible? I know the Old Testament better than the New, but here’s what I learned from the OT. Read the verses.
So why all the commands to treat aliens in Israel well? It is because they weren’t treated well. It was a problem for Israel. Prophets and priests don’t need to complain over and over again about something that’s not a problem.
Likewise, we Americans have a problem. And these verses make me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. They probably make you uncomfortable, too.
Is there an answer here in the Bible? Not really. No real answers from a different place and time except that we should treat immigrants well. A Christian need to be both just and compassionate. Both the Old Testament Prophets and Jesus told us not to ignore the poor, over and over.
Which leads me to our Gospel. Jesus said, “I came to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.”
Why did he say that he came to bring fire to the earth? Because he knew that his words would be controversial. He did not mean Christians to ignore the problems of this world. And he knew that when Christians tackled an issue there would be conflict. Christians have different ideas than non-Christians and even Christians can believe and act differently in response to a problem. But clearly Jesus is saying it’s better to try something than to do nothing. Trying to bring about good change is important work. Even if it means conflict.
One of the biggest sources of conflict is immigration. What are we to do? Well, today’s world is a complicated place. No wall, or absence of wall, no policy or law alone is going to solve the problem of US immigration. It’s just too complicated. Whoever believes that a single idea is going to solve the problem of immigration is dead wrong.
Immigration is one issue that will divide families: families of origin, families we choose, church families. People hold strong opinions on many sides of the issue. What’s the alternative?
Ignore the issue?
The folks in Israel no doubt tried to ignore the problem of injustice among immigrants and that’s why God inspired the priests and prophets to tell them otherwise. If the people of Israel had treated the immigrant aliens kindly, there would have been no record in our Bible complaining about mistreatment of immigrants. It’s precisely because the people were treating immigrants badly that the priests and prophets were inspired to speak about the issue.
No, ignoring the issue is not the answer. There are those who feel that churches, whether national or local, shouldn’t have to get involved in politics and I agree. If all people were acting as they should, there would be no need to speak about immigration in churches or anywhere else.
If we ignore the issue it will get worse, much worse. Too many people pouring over the border, Too many families mistreated or separated. More strife and division among Americans as the immigration problem gets bigger and bigger.
What should we do, then?
Listen, and listen carefully to everyone, but especially those whose opinions differ from yours. Other Christians especially are like family, and we are never to treat others with contempt, despite the news we hear of contemptuous folks on both ends of the political spectrum.
Love people, even when you believe they do the absolute wrong thing to try and solve a problem. Because they are at least trying to solve a problem, and trying to solve a problem in the long run, is better than doing nothing.
Try to solve the immigration problem yourself.
How? Be part of the solution. How can we do that here in Milaca?
Making quilts for Lutheran World relief and encourage Lutheran World Relief to give them to immigrant and refugee children who are cold. Write letters to encourage our leaders to deal with this problem before it gets worse. Send money to those organizations that are part of the solution, and not part of the problem. If I your pastor am on the wrong path, tell me. If the church council, or the synod or the national church is on the wrong path, tell them. When you pick your next pastor, pick someone who will make a difference, your kind of difference.
Be willing to work with others to solve problems, even people who are different. If we can’t do this we as a country are doomed to lurching back and forth between left and right and a 51% majority acting like it’s a 95% majority. That’s no way to run a country when the country is getting more and more points of view.
Jesus says today that working for good will bring conflict. But not working to make the world a better place is worse. Last week Jesus said to whom much is given, much is expected. We have a great country, a great state, a great town, and a great church family here at Zion. Because we have so much compared to some others, Jesus expects us to work hard to solve the problems of this world.