BY PASTOR WALTER THOMPSON, OUTREACH PASTOR
Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus. I am writing today with a few thoughts around the migrant children that have been placed in our community this week. Their arrival has brought many questions in our community regarding their specific situation as well as the greater immigration policy debate.
Typically, questions around immigration fall into three basic categories as outlined by Reverend John Garland of San Antonio Mennonite Church:
1. The legal question: Aren’t we a nation of laws? Can’t we defend ourselves against illegal immigration?
2. The fear question: What if the people crossing the border take our jobs? What if they are violent? What if they change our culture?
3. The scarcity question: How are we supposed to take care of these people? Why can’t they take care of themselves?
Garland maintains that these are good questions that we need to be asking, but they remain limited to the realms of politics and economics. If we surround ourselves with people and news that ask and answer only these questions, then we can be lulled into a sense of having considered the issue completely. As Christians, we also must ask how our faith intersects and influences our perspective on those arriving at our borders.
Time and again throughout the scriptures, we find God directing us to love and care for foreigners (Exodus 23:9). Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) reminds us that our neighbors can have different backgrounds from us and we are to love them anyway. Micah 6:8 clearly states what God requires of us: to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. In practically all parts of the Bible, we find God concerned with how we treat others--especially those on the fringes of society and those different from ourselves.
With these biblical principles in mind, what should our response be to the arrival of these 15-17-year-old migrants in Midland? Or the thousands arriving at our border daily? We certainly must love them. Love for those whom we can’t visit or speak to begins with prayer. Even though we don’t know their specific situations, God knows all the details. Love also includes doing what we can to help provide for their physical needs. Since government agencies are handling most of that, our response in this area is very limited. Our church has partnered with other local churches and individuals to help provide some art supplies for the children and we are prepared to help more as needs arise.
This situation also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the more difficult and uncomfortable questions our faith asks of us. One question I would ask you to consider as you examine your own heart is, “How do I prioritize the competing values of my own safety, security, and prosperity versus loving my neighbor?” I wonder what Jesus might do in our shoes today. Personal safety and security don’t appear high on Jesus’ list of priorities, but he did come to provide abundant life for us. Yet, he also came to provide that same abundant life for those arriving at our southern border. It seems like the more I ponder one side or the other of this issue, the more “yets” come to my mind.
Personally, I have to continually remind myself that in the midst of all the policy talk, we are talking about people. Our mission trip to the border with Abara Frontiers back in October 2019 allowed our small group to meet face to face with some families and individuals who had traveled from Central America in an attempt to enter the U.S. They were stuck waiting in Mexico when we visited them. One father’s face routinely appears in my mind when I ponder matters of immigration. He was there with his wife and children. The violence they escaped had left their family home in ashes and their lives in danger. I couldn’t imagine a more horrific situation. My heart broke as I looked into the face of his sweet six-year-old daughter returning home to the migrant shelter from a local school. I thought of my own young daughter. I want to seek justice and kindness for families like this.
I know there’s another side to the immigration issue full of stories as well. Indeed, there are people wanting to enter this country to do harm to others and commit crimes. I’m hoping we, as followers of Jesus, can identify the tension between these two sides. Instead of seating ourselves firmly and comfortably in one side or the other, what if we lived with some of this tension? Properly held, I believe this tension can help us to avoid the extremes and make sure we are loving all of our neighbors both near and far.
Friends, these are complex issues with few clear answers. I pray no matter where we land on the issues around immigration, that our journey there will have included a genuine consideration of how the ways of Jesus can be applied to our current struggles. May God bless you and guide you in this endeavor.