Jesus said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
While in France, I visited the home of my father’s patrilineal ancestors, the Rivards. I saw the font where my 6X great grandfather, Robert Rivard, was baptized, the home in which he grew up and the plaque on the wall of the church listing those who went from there to New France in Canada. We marveled at the courage of boarding a 90-foot wooden boat to traverse the North Atlantic in search of a better future. And we wondered what hope drove them.
I cannot pretend to be an expert on immigration. The laws governing the influx of human beings from another country into our own are complex and innumerable. There is little dispute that immigration law is necessary. But the catastrophe at the border and the cries of the children cannot be ignored. Especially by the body of Christ, those who live sustained by hope.
The Biblical mandate is clear. Our job as the people of God is to welcome the stranger and treat the “alien” as one of our own.
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34
‘Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Deuteronomy 27:19
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. Colossians 3:11
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:1-3
The history of the people of God begins with alienation. First from the garden of origin and the ideal relationship. The whole house of Israel fled to take up lodging in Egypt with Joseph. There they found food and work but were eventually enslaved. Liberated by God, they followed Moses into the wilderness, where for 40 years they were nomadic refugees. The earliest Christians were persecuted, tortured and executed. Many were exiled from their homes and communities for following the “heretical” Jesus. We have shared and family histories of emigration, exile and flight.
Regardless of our political leanings, we are called by God and by the experience of the faithful to tend all who are strangers, wanderers, far from home. Whether they are seeking refuge, freedom or work sufficient to put bread on the table, anyone who resides among us is our neighbor in the eyes of God. Anyone. We are called to treat them with dignity and respect and to see that they are safe, sheltered, fed and cared for.
The commandment to honor mother and father includes respecting the courage and desperation that drives parents from their homes with children in tow. As people of God and part of the human family, we do everything in our power to keep those families intact. We cannot support punishing desperate parents by traumatizing their children, even if they attempt to enter our land illegally.
Imagine all the comfort we put into traveling to a strange land for a holiday: visas and passports, abundant shoes and clothing, medications, extra cash, cell phones, kindles, c-pap machines. What would drive us from our homes to walk across desserts carrying our babies with nothing but the clothes on our back?
Watching “Stranger Things” last night with Ted, I commented on how foolish a character was to go near a strange, pulsing nest of slime. Ted said, “But I bet you would go right in if one of your children was in there.” Parents will go to any end for the wellbeing of their children. Can we not trust that what is “back there” is bad enough to drive folks forward to find what hope and possibility they can?
Yes, we work to reform immigration law so that we find a way to keep everyone safe. And we work for systems of justice and support in the name of the shared humanity of every person who draws breath. But as those slow wheels grind, we tend to the human being in front of us, in obedience to the God who wanders with them.
There is much you can do. Contact Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services via their website: https://www.lirs.org/ or by phone 410-230-2700. Investigate the ELCA’s work with unaccompanied minors: www.elca.org/AMMPARO. Learn about the church sanctuary movement: https://isaiahmn.org/project/sanctuary-network/ or call Vivian Ihekoronye, area organizer, at 651-376-1066.
Contact your legislator by letter or phone and let them know what you think!
With gratitude for you,