Conner is a typical mischievous 3 year old that loves to play games. His favorite game is called “The Candy Game”. His parents always leave a big bowl of candy on the living room coffee table for the family and guests to enjoy. One day, Conner began sneaking up to the bowl, thinking mom and dad didn’t see him. He crawled along the ground, thinking he was completely invisible to his parents’ eyes and once next to the table, he eased his hand slowly up the side and along the top toward the bowl of sugary treasure. With his stolen treat in hand, he slid his hand back down the side of the table, just as dad jumped up off the couch shouting, “Give me that candy, you rascal!” Conner laughed in startled excitement as he ran across the living room. And so the tradition of “The Candy Game” was born.
One day Conner’s parents invited their friends over for dinner. Later, as the conversation continued past dinner and into the evening, no one noticed Conner crawling across the living floor for another round of “The Candy Game.” As the game unfolded, the guests didn’t seem to find the same humor in the game as Connor’s parents. They smiled respectfully, but as Conner ran from his dad, his mom noticed annoyance and disapproval from their friends. “We don’t let out kids have candy in our house.” One of them firmly stated. “If you keep encouraging him like that, he’s going to expect it all the time.” Conner’s parents were embarrassed, questioning their previous choices.
A few days later, while Conner’s parents were relaxing in the living room, Conner started the game once more. However, this time, instead of the typical fun response, his little hand was met with an unexpected slap from his dad’s much larger palm. Conner retreated in shock as his dad pointed a stern finger at him. “No, Conner!” his dad firmly bellowed. “This candy is off limits!” Conner ran into his room, sobbing with each step. He lay on his bed in complete bewilderment. Why was dad so angry when he was just doing what he had always done and what was usually expected? He had never enforced rules about candy before, so why were things suddenly different?
Contrast this light-hearted story with the issue of illegal immigration, a serious and complex cultural issue. By the simplicity of this story, one can see that the same principles and reactions can apply to the issue of immigration as they do to Connor’s relationship with his parents. As a minister, people often ask my opinion on the illegal immigrant issue, specifically what the Church’s response should be. My response is usually in the form of a question. What is the essential root of the problem? I am usually met with a response that the US Government’s immigration laws of today are unrealistic and make it difficult, if not impossible, to immigrate to the country. With that assumption, the above story has become my illustration of our nation’s relationship with immigrants from the South and the culture that has developed.
Like Conner’s parents, the United States has traditionally taken an attitude of a “wink and a nod” when it comes to immigration issues, even though the legal ramifications still hover in the background. Like Conner, those wanting to immigrate to the United States take advantage of the lax regulations and joyfully make their way across the border. Like Conner’s dad, America chuckles as it calls out, *“Don’t you cross that border!” while our neighbors from the South run as fast as they can without being “caught”. When the rules are not enforced, like three year old children, the system can easily be taken for granted.
Political parties and citizens are expressing their frustrations with this lackadaisical approach. For selfish (and often incorrect) motives, politicians voice their opinion, in hopes of the opposition cowering to their disapproval. Like Conner’s mom and dad, they suddenly expect drastic and sudden change to the attitude that has existed, expecting immigrants to understand and agree with our frustrations and embarrassment. The problems with illegal immigration do, in fact, exist and demand change, but the
expectations should be placed on the shoulders of the US Government, not those that have broken flawed and non-enforced laws. Those considered illegal need to be accepted as part of the solution process, not the cause of the problem.
As we journey through the Lenten Season, preparing to celebrate Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross, let’s remember the all-encompassing reach of God’s redemption, for it is not only attributed to those of us privileged to live in the United States. The Church, and the Kingdom of God, is called to rise above political motivations and failed governmental policies. As followers of Christ, our support should first focus on human beings, not political parties or patriotism. Despite what is claimed by some political figures, the vast majority of people that long to make the US their home are not criminals and mean no harm. The “candy” has simply been left on the table and the authority figures have turned a blind eye. Undocumented immigrants seek only a better life for themselves and their families. Until the US takes responsibility for their mistakes, the Church has the responsibility to defend the alien regardless of the laws in place. (Exodus 22:21)
As we observe Lent, let us not turn a blind eye to those living among us affected by the complex issues of immigration. With open arms and hearts, let us unite and reveal the love of Christ to these people, sheltering them from the storms that often surround them. Let us remain in fervent prayer for immigration reform and for the Kingdom of God to be realized for all. Let us remember that the Lord’s Table is set before all of humanity, a feast prepared for each one of us, even those who society would see as the lowest among us.
Jake Kampe is an associate pastor of small groups living in League City, Texas where he also trains and mentors small group leaders. He is also a freelance writer, currently working on his first book, Lost Passages: Jesus in the Grey and was most recently a contributing writer for The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living into God’s Kingdom and Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression. He has been married to his wife Kelly for 19 years, and has three boys: Ian (15), Lucas (9) and four legged son, Dexter (7). You can contact Jake on Facebook, Twitter or by visiting his blog at www.nakedtheologytalk.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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