Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. with the Evangelical Immigration Table and several host organizations such as Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform. The event was called “Americans for Reform.” This was my third trip to D.C., all for similar events. I have participated in press conferences and interviews with local and national media, have hosted events for our church audience to better understand the issue at hand, and am continuing to offer classes, prayer vigils and materials for educating our people on why we, both as a church and as a Christian, should get involved in the immigration debate.
In short, let me just say that although our church is not paving the way for immigration reform in our country from a distinctly Christian perspective, we are, in fact, leading our people to stand for the vulnerable–to stand and speak for those that cannot do it for themselves. We stand for the widow, the orphan, the outcast, the imprisoned, and the poor, among others. We love and serve those we are called to have a special compassion for. And Scripture is very clear that God has a special concern for the immigrant and the foreigner living among us.
But this is not a new revelation to most Christians I know. Most of them know that we are to love people… all people. Many of them know the story of the Israelites and how God’s own chosen people were once foreigners in Egypt. Some of them even remember that many heroes of our faith, including Jesus, were immigrants themselves at one point or another in their lives.
This is not what concerns them. What is troubling, however, is the fact that these immigrants broke the law. They crossed the border illegally or they overstayed their visa, and now they’re undocumented and living here unlawfully. They know deporting some 12 million people is not a viable option. They would also say that granting them amnesty is not the answer either. And I would fully agree on both accounts.
But what I’m finding is that far too many people who have a voice against immigration reform are simply unaware of our nation’s current immigration system. They are deeply misinformed of what it takes to enter this country legally. For example, here are some common myths that many believe to be true:
· All immigrants can stand in line and wait their turn just like all the others.
· Undocumented immigrants are a drain on our economy.
· Undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of Welfare, Medicare and other government social services.
· Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes but still get benefits.
· Undocumented immigrants bring a lot of crime with them.
These are just a few of the common misconceptions out there about the undocumented. What we are finding, however, is that once we begin educating our people on what’s really happening out there, once they have a better understanding of what it takes to enter and remain in our country legally, eyes are opened and minds are slowly changed.
But what really moves an individual to a change of heart is when that person initiates a personal relationship with an immigrant. With a relationship, immigrants are no longer numbers and statistics or misconceptions–they have faces, and they have names. And that alone, when it is genuine, is enough to cause even the hardest of hearts to want to do something.
We want to help the undocumented get right with the law. Yes, there need to be consequences for breaking it. Yes, they should be at the back of the line–behind those that are already in it. Yes, they should learn English. Yes, we need better border security. And you’d probably be happy to know that each of these and more are part of the negotiations currently in the House of Representatives. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan bill. We are now waiting for the House to make a move, and the time is now.
It is not the church’s role to make policy. It is not even the church’s role to dictate to those we have entrusted to lead what we want them to do. It is our responsibility to stand for those that cannot stand for themselves. So we pray and we advocate on their behalf, trusting that Congress will do something for the millions of lives who are desperately waiting for hope–hope for a chance to simply makes things right.
Josh Blackwell is the Language Ministries Pastor at First Baptist Orlando where his primary responsibility is the integration of all nations, tribes and tongues into one body.
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