Seeing “the Stranger” with New Eyes

January marked the anniversary in American history of the enactment of a law granting Puerto Ricans complete U.S. birthright citizenship. The 1940 Nationality Act, which became effective January 13, 1941, applied the rule jure solis to persons born in Puerto Rico after that date. In other words, they were considered “natural born” U.S. citizens with full rights, thus opening up a world of possibilities for those once seen as strangers in this land.

As we consider the millions of Latinos still fighting for legal documentation status today, let us not forget that the pages of Scripture are full of people with similar stories. Abram (later called Abraham) sacrificially left his parent’s home to follow God’s promise of growth and abundance. Naomi left a land in famine only to lose her husband and two sons along the journey. Jesus left his native land to live as a refugee for the redemption of all humankind. These are just a few of the biblical examples that parallel the stories of modern day sojourners, many of whom come to our shores in search of a better life for themselves or those that they love.

Yet, in the midst of their struggles, these biblical characters all came face to face with persons who embodied God’s loving compassion in the flesh. Similarly, if we are to count ourselves faith leaders with a biblical worldview, then this, too, is our duty- to be the embodiment of justice and compassion within our communities. This very idea, in fact, was reinforced by Jesus in Matthew 25, where he noted that the just treatment of the hungry, stranger, sick or incarcerated is the equivalent of the just treatment of him personally.

Therefore, in light of the great immigration debate that is taking place in our nation today, let us look at this issue, not through the lens of our individual political parties, but through the eyes of Jesus in the Scriptures as he challenged the leaders of his day to become a force of love and compassion for the least of these among them. We now have this same opportunity before us – how will you respond?

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