Esther Munoz reflects on her reading through of the “I Was a Stranger” challenge.
I Was a Stranger Challenge, Day 3: “You must not exploit a foreign resident or oppress him, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21 (HCSB)
As I’ve contemplated and prayed over this issue, I found myself wondering why the thought of allowing illegal immigrants a path to legal status creates such a hostile reaction among professing Christians. And before anyone starts thinking this is a passive-aggressive post about someone else, let me be transparent…I’m talking about myself here. There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when I was a proponent of mass deportation, penalties, and fines for those who had come to our country illegally. So what’s changed? To put it simply, my heart.
For the past seven years or so, God has been doing a work in my heart…softening, transforming, changing…so that I no longer look at people and issues the way I used to when I was in my 20′s and early 30′s. I used to be angry when Spanish-speaking people would come up to me and start speaking Spanish…I was insulted. “How dare they assume I speak Spanish?!?” I thought…never mind that I actually am fluent in Spanish, and never mind that I was working as a customer service specialist in a bank at the time, where my job was to help people open new accounts; and never mind that I was the only one who spoke Spanish so their correctly assuming I spoke Spanish actually benefitted my sales goals. My hard heart saw nothing more than “those people” who should learn how to speak English and who were probably here illegally.
Back to the present…so I found myself asking God yesterday, “Why is this issue so divisive? Why do we (as a society) welcome with open arms those who are wealthy enough to pay the exorbitant fees to get their paperwork expedited, while despising those who can’t afford the hefty government fees? Isn’t paying to get your way a bribe…and isn’t one bribe the same as another? Isn’t the fact that someone is willing to pay a bribe proof of their willingness to exercise unethical business practices? Where would those unethical standards be more dangerous, able to have more influence and thus, cause more damage: among ‘white collar’ professionals/executives or among the ‘blue collar’ working class?”
As I contemplated this further, one thing kept jumping out at me: money. The money paid in the form of government fees by those who are wealthy enough to go that route. The money paid by the poor to the ‘coyotes’ to get here illegally. The money paid to some who are charged with protecting our borders so they can look the other way when the people cross. The money the businesses want to make when they hire suspected illegals at minimum (or below) wage. The potential to earn money that calls both groups of people to America in the first place. The high financial cost of illegal aliens & ‘strain on the economy’ that we read about in the news…money, money, money…it all seems to be driven by money.
As I prayed over this, the other thing that jumped out at me was that those of us who are Evangelicals should expect money to be the chief driver for non-believers…this is the way of the world. But should those who profess the Name of Christ be focusing on money over compassion? Or how about justice – should that be our focus…over grace and mercy?
As I embark on this 40-day journey of praying for the foreigners who seem to be ‘invading’ America, the Holy Spirit brought some familiar words to mind. So I Googled them, because I’d never really read the entire thing before…and I couldn’t help but be reminded that unless we are 100% Native American, everyone was (at one time or another) a ‘foreigner’, ‘stranger’, and ‘immigrant’. What’s more, this country was founded by a group of people who were outcasts & considered criminal because they refused to abide by governmental laws that they believed were immoral. And I wondered…have we ‘developed’ so much in 393 years that we’ve forgotten who we are are and where we came from? If Evangelicals can’t demonstrate compassion towards those who are the “least of these”, then how can we expect that the world will believe us when we tell them that Jesus loves them and forgives all sins?
May these words remind us all of the truth that our Country’s founders knew all-too-well: we come from “tired, poor…wretched refuse”. Blessings!
“The New Colossus” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus (1849–87), written in 1883 and, in 1903, engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
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