More often than not, I don’t wade into the world of politics and legal matters. My worldview is just too small, too focused on my community and what I can do to make it work right. But the images and issues of illegal immigrants have been on my mind, and I’ve found myself drawn into conversation around these people and this issue over and over again. But it’s an issue with complications because we are people and we’re complicated, and the people who cross our borders without proper identification, well, their lives are complicated, too.
If I’m honest with myself, I’ll recognize that my ancestors were illegal immigrants, too. Sure, they came and “bartered” with the Native Americans who lived here, but for the most part, they tricked and bullied their way into the majority. In fact, when it comes down to the “First Thanksgiving,” my ancestors would’ve never survived if they hadn’t been taken in by those who received them. I have to recognize that “to the victor goes the spoils,” as we’ve claimed this land as our own, but it also means that we’ve written the history books the way we see it. [This also became abundantly clear to me as someone who grew up in New England and migrated to south of the Mason-Dixon line in the mid-1990s: the War of Southern Secession versus the War of Northern Aggression!]
I also recognize that I would do anything to take care of my family. Better healthcare, jobs, security, freedom is over there? Let’s break into Canada! [Okay, maybe that’s a stretch: I like neither poutine nor hockey.] But just like my ancestors left England and the rest of Europe, citing a need for religious freedom, I would be strongly inclined to leave if it meant that my children would grow up without fear of persecution. Rival gangs, drug use, poor living conditions, no jobs… are we talking current conditions in Mexico or seventeenth century Europe?
Again, politically, legally, all of that stuff isn’t really my bailiwick. I understand that’s all tricky. I just question how I as a follower of Jesus Christ living America should respond? And yes, all of that history comes into play for me. But so does the narrative of Hebrews 11 (you can pick which time “stranger” gets used in the Bible for a fun, topical read).
“By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later received as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country… [He] did not receive the things promised; [he] only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that [he was] a foreigner and stranger on earth” [Hebrews 11:8-9, 13b]
I’m a stranger. I don’t belong here. I am ‘not of this world’ as some have said. Frankly, all of us are strangers, none of us belong here, none of us are intended for the world as it currently exists.
If we lived like that, illegal immigration wouldn’t be the last issue we talked together in a different way.