by Samuel Rodriguez and Robert Gittelson
Our commitment, as people of strong faith, is to reconcile conviction with compassion, truth with love, and righteousness with justice. At the end of the day, our number one objective is to reconcile the Rev. Billy Graham’s message with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march. In doing so, we advance not the agenda of the Donkey or the Elephant, but exclusively the agenda of the Lamb.
Comprehensive immigration reform is about the right thing to do. The Lamb’s agenda activates a kingdom culture firewall of righteousness and justice. In other words, in order to defend life, protect liberty, and facilitate the platform by which all Americans can pursue happiness, we must apply biblical optics and corrective lenses to spiritual and cultural myopia, as we address the difficult and divisive immigration reform issue.
Both political parties in Washington, D.C. have played the proverbial political football with the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and therefore with the Hispanic electorate. That’s why we do believe that it’s wonderful to see the faith community take the lead on this issue that transcends politics where they reconcile Leviticus 19 with Romans 13. The rule-of-law argument against comprehensive immigration reform is often framed by pointing to the biblical passage of Romans 13, which opens with the sentence, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
However, we would suggest that to really see how the Bible looks at the issue of immigration, and how we should deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants that reside in our country, one must continue reading Romans 13, which states, “ … owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law … ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” This passage does not conflict with Leviticus 19: 33-34. It conforms with it, as Leviticus states, “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Justice demands that as a nation we rise above the political fray. Justice requires us to reconcile the rule of law, or Romans 13, with a compassionate process of integration for those that have come with a pure purpose of providing for their families a better tomorrow, or Leviticus 19. Justice is not amnesty. Justice secures the border, stops illegal immigration, but also builds a bridge by which the undocumented that can qualify through a strict regimen of metrics, pay fines, and begin a process of fully embracing the American Dream.
In the 1960s, the evangelical community stood on the sidelines as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for justice. In the twenty-first century, Evangelicals refuse to repeat history and stand committed to contextualizing the moral imperative behind immigration reform. Driven by Matthew 25 and a commitment to reconcile conviction with compassion, the followers of Christ lead the charge for immigration reform that protects our values, borders, and, more importantly, the image of God in every human being. This commitment is consistent with the Agenda of the Lamb. It is all about the right thing to do.
Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a member of the Hispanic Evangelical Association. Robert Gittelson is president of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and vice president of governmental affairs for the NHCLC.