Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for a “just and compassionate” path to legal residence for undocumented immigrants. This is a great step forward in thoughts about immigration in the United States. It troubled me, though, that the Convention felt they had to clarify their stance by approving an amendment saying, “This resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.” So there is a desire for legal residence, but there is also a desire to avoid the possibility that this could be construed as amnesty. Why is that?
Webster’s dictionary defines amnesty as, “the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.” In other words, amnesty would be showing grace to those who are in our land without documents who are trying to earn a better life for themselves and their loved ones. So here we have the call for a compassionate pathway to legal status, but a fear of calling it amnesty, even though amnesty sounds very much like a Christian ideal. Isn’t amnesty exactly what Jesus did for all of us, pronouncing pardon for us and inviting us into the family of God? Shouldn’t we do the same for those foreigners among us, especially when the perceived offense is so small?
The Bible is replete with commands to care for the outsider and the foreigner as well as words of condemnation and judgment on those who have refused such care. For instance there is Deuteronomy 10:17-19, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Here not only are we told that we are to love and care for foreigners but this passage roots this ideal in the very nature of God’s self. Because God loves the foreigner so should you. And this isn’t the only reason, but because you too were foreigners.
This is also an ideal in the New Testament. Hebrews 13 reminds us that we are to show hospitality to strangers, and in so doing we just may entertain angels unaware. Not to mention that a major theme in the New Testament is that we ourselves, as Christians, are to live as foreigners in the land, strangers to this fallen world. Should we not, then, show hospitality to citizens of other countries residing among us, especially when so many of them profess some sort of faith in Jesus Christ?
We too were foreigners in this land, and as Christians we are foreigners in this land. So let us live as God has commanded us, showing kindness to the foreigners among us, despite what others may think of us.