Remember that Jesus was an Undocumented Child Refugee

Remember that Jesus was an Undocumented Child Refugee July 19, 2014

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph[h] got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

-Matthew 2: 13-15

There is a humanitarian crisis on the border. By the end of the year up to 90,000 unaccompanied children will have crossed into this country seeking refuge from a life of increasing instability and violence that is sweeping across Central America. It’s heartbreaking situation. I can’t imagine the fear these kids face, the dangers the endure, the pain and loneness they feel. As a parent my heart breaks. It’s tragic that some parents live in such dire situations that the best way for them to care for the kids is to give up access to them. I cannot imagine what it would be like to face the choice to either abandon my children, or see them suffer more at home. It’s horribly tragic and heart-rending.

The question we now face is what we should do in response.

The story of Jesus’ flight to Egypt recoded in Matthew 2 is a good place to start. Jesus himself began his life in a situation quite similar to the situation that many undocumented children at the border face today. I find it sobering and humbling that we worship a God who became man in the form of a Child refugee. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I believe it’s the framework we need to begin with in order to adequately process and respond as Christians

I have read countless opinion pieces, reports, and interviews about this crisis. I have come to realize that, sadly, Christ is not the starting point for many Christians. Although I freely admit that there are no easy or simple solutions, I do know that if we are going to have an adequate response as Christians we need to be grounded in the love of God, in the story of Jesus, and in the words of scripture. As a result I have put together a list of five  Biblical affirmations that I think need to be the wellspring of our response, and the foundation of our work. Here they are:

5 Biblical Affirmations to ground our response

1.  All people are made in the image of God and have inherent value

The Biblical narrative opens with the affirmation that men and women are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28). Throughout the Biblical cannon it is clear that God is for life (John 10:10). More importantly, in the eyes of God no person differs from any other (Gal 3:28). As such, when considering immigrants, we must begin by affirming their personhood, right to life, and dignity before God.

2. God calls us to right relationships

Jesus Christ laid out the foundation for our understanding of right relationships when he commanded us to love God and neighbor (Mat 22:36-40). The Old Testament prophets agreed, calling for mercy, justice, and humility (Micah 6:8). When we interact with immigrants we must consider the fact that they are our neighbor and therefore we must pursue a right relationship with them. Any right relationship cannot ignore oppression and physical deprivation (Isaiah 58; Luke 4:16-20).

3. God’s has a special concern for the vulnerable

Throughout the Old Testament, God sees, hears, and responds to the cries of vulnerable people and he instructs us to do the same (Ex 2:23-25; Lev 25; Deut 24:19-22). Immigrants to the U.S. are often vulnerable today and therefore we must be concerned with their well-being. Israel was instructed to apply the same law to sojourners and natural born citizens, including the provision of gleaning for the destitute (Deut 24:19-21). They were instructed to love the sojourner (Lev 19:34) and treat them fairly (Exod 22:21; Lev 19:33).

4. Abundance is a gift from God that we are to share with others

God often instructs his people to be generous and kind towards others (Mark 10:17-27; Lev 23:22; Deut 24:19-21) Paul encourages the church in Corinth to demonstrate the sincerity of their love by fulfilling their pledge to give to the needy. He also mentions commends the Macedonian churches for giving “beyond their means” (2 Cor 8). John the Baptist calls believers to give away what they don’t need (Luke 3:11). The church in Jerusalem also practiced great generosity as they sold possessions to care for others (Acts 4:32).

5. God’s people are to practice hospitality

Scripture commands us to show hospitality and care for others (Rom 12:13) without grumbling (1 Pet 4:9). We are to do this without the expectation of repayment (Luke 14:12–13; Prov 19:17). We are to seek to honor Christ and not ourselves in our efforts to care for others. Hospitality is not entertaining. Rather, it requires acting kindly towards other when it would be perceived as a disadvantage.

I am not proposing any policy solutions here. There are plenty of other places where that discussion can (and should) happen. I simply want to make sure that when we have those conversations that we start from the right place. I hope you will also start from a place of prayer. This is the prayer I have been praying. I would love to hear how you are addressing this crisis in your life, through your faith, and in your actions.

Grace and Peace!

(Special thanks to Jared Noetzel who helped formulate and articulate these.)

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