October 25, 2020

A Jesus-Shaped Challenge

A passage from Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality struck me as I was reading it recently.  I’m going to offer it to all you faithful denizens of the Internet Monastery to consider.

Here’s a simple example.  Think about yourself if you had just spent three years with Jesus.  How would you treat illegal immigrants?  For vast numbers of typical American Christians, their immediate instincts are to either argue a political position or look for a way to end the conversation.  . . . Some of [their] answers could be better, and some could be a lot worse, but it’s the process of how we consider the issues that matters to me.  (Mere Churchianity, p. 51.)

How do we consider issues?  Do we seize the first reaction to surface in our minds and henceforth hold on to it as our unchangeable opinion?  Do we research the topic?  Do we adopt the position of people we respect or who at least seem compelling to us?  Do we hope the issue will just go away?

What if Jesus were standing right next to us when we had to say something about a controversial topic?  Because he is, of course, and as Christians we should try to speak with his voice.

Here’s your challenge.  Write about the issue of illegal immigration and illegal immigrants from the point of view of Jesus.  You’ve spent years with him; what would he say or do about the issue?

Don’t offer political or social commentary, don’t quote any pundits or talk-show hosts, and most importantly don’t start anything with, “Well, I think . . .”  The exercise here is getting away from our own immediate opinions and trying to think as the Son of God would think.  Don’t worry about whether your answer is or isn’t politically viable or likely to happen.  Jesus didn’t, even though he knew where his words and actions would lead him.

You will probably need to do a little Bible study, but I don’t want a flurry of proof texts.  Consider the issue with these guidelines in mind:

  • What does Jesus think about laws?  About just or unjust laws?
  • What does Jesus think our attitude and behavior toward laws ought to be, just and unjust?
  • How does Jesus treat people such as illegal immigrants?
  • How does Jesus treat people with the authority to enforce laws?

It would be good if people from other countries answered, too.  Illegal immigration is an issue everywhere, but again, I don’t want a particular country’s attitude toward the topic, I want thoughtful exploration of Jesus’ will.

One more rule — Treat others’ comments kindly, even if they differ from yours.  Although we are trying to be like Jesus, we aren’t Jesus.  Humility is the order of the day.

So iMonks, sharpen your quills, defrost your ink, weigh down the corners of your parchment, and begin!


  1. Damaris,

    Awesome thought experiment! I love the challenge. I’d like one quick clarification though, before I try it out. Are we supposed to try to determine what Jesus would say if he were here now, or what we would say if we had spent the last 3 years with him? It seems to me that the answers might be somewhat different.

    • In a sense, either way. Ideally you would know Jesus well enough to express his concerns. And yes, I’m talking about here and now.

  2. I love this exercise. I’m not a very “political” person, but I have cringed in the past year or so at Christian friends who espouse the views of Rush/Beck/Hannity/et al on the immigration issue, while neglecting to consider where Jesus might fall on this issue.

    • So, is it your immediate or a is it a considered response that leads you to deduce that the views of Rush/Beck/Hannity/et al are not where Jesus would fall on this issue? I think it is truly a faulty response that comes from too little evidence since we would have to believe that Jesus would endorse the breaking of civil law. It seems to me that compassion does not negate the desire to see the laws that are in place are upheld. Is it ok for those who come to our country and in doing so become criminals, to then not have to face justice? How far does that thinking lead? What about those who smuggle the illegal immigrants? Is that ok and would Jesus excuse them? What about a person who breaks the law in any other way? Now, I think Jesus might (?) want the laws changed, but I don’t think he would endorse criminal activity.

  3. “Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

    • How does this verse relate, Martha? Are immigrants in the same category as publicans and harlots?

  4. Since two years I am following this highly intriguing website… having been a monk for 2 years in France and considering myself an evangelical christian it’s not difficult to see why…
    I’m from the Netherlands. We have this man called Geert Wilders. My mother voted for him! He says all muslim immigration should stop immediately and says islam is not a religion but a very nasty ideology bent on destroying the West.
    I’m being reminded of the parable of the good Samaritan and I wonder if nowadays it would have been called ‘the parable of the good Muslim’…
    So from a european perspective I would say: no matter what our stance over here is on immigration, we have to treat people from muslim countries with respect, for that is what Jesus would have done.
    And such a stance makes me highly unpopular over here…. well….

    • Thanks for posting, Hans! I can easily imagine “the parable of the good Muslim.”

    • Dear Hans,

      It is good to see someone from your country posting here. I met someone from the Netherlands in a Christian chat room and asked many questions about things I had heard. And I thought Christianity was deteriorating in America! May God be with you.

    • 1) I seriously doubt being pro-Muslim makes you unpopular in Europe.
      2) You misconstrue the position of the Samaritan in the parable. Jesus didn’t ratify Samaritan religion; he used him as an example of a sinful person acting better than leading Jews of the day.
      3) How many more van Goghs and Fortuyns will it take before you understand Islam’s relationship to the kuffar?

      • Kozak a short reply.
        1) Lots of people in Western Europe tend to be more and more anti-Muslim I do hope because they reject that religion after having studied it in depth… at times I fear because of xenophobia.
        I am not pro-Muslim I am pro-Human. I interpret the biblical command to love my neighbour to extend to all of humanity.
        2) Jesus didn’t ratify Judaic religion as it was in his day either… and yes we are all humans and so we are all sinful, jews and samaritans, christians and muslims alike!
        3) It is true Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered by a dutch moroccan radical moslim youth. Pim Fortuyn however was murdered by a dutch caucasian left wing animal rights activist who was opposed to Fortuyn’s support of wearing fur…
        Yes Kozak I am very aware of the inherently evil nature of islam it being a false religion rejecting Jesus as God and rejecting the notion of original sin. Like all other religions it tries to please the perceived deity by lots of religious efforts, in their case to pray five times a day to fast for a month once a year and to drink no alcohol (to name a few of their requirements).
        I do not think that hating muslims is christian though… I’m convinced that hatred with lower us to a carnal religious level where Christ is NOT to be found.
        Yes it is challenging to tell the difference between the sin and the sinner, to hate the one and love the other and yes we all fail utterly in this regard.
        I just don’t want the history books of the future to go a bit like this: “After the centuries of antisemitism Westerners turned against their muslim minorities since the horrendous act of terrorism on 9/11/2001. Human rights were violated and constitutions were amended in ways that would have been unheard of only 2 decades before the end of the twentieth century…”

  5. How good to see a real Christian attitude towards others who may even be enemies and who may seek to kill Christians. Many so-called “christians” seek to hinder even others who call themselves Christians simply for sticking to accurate scripture. Keep standing firm for TRUTH

  6. I have seen Geert Wilders (heard him speal) and think he is spot on. Islam is threatenig the Western way of life because Muslims have no desire to be one of you (us), but rather wish us to become like them.

    I think Jesus would have us respect the laws of our government and have mercy on the individual.

    Jesus was far more concerned about saving people from sin, death and the devil, than he ever was about their political standing.


    • Maybe it would be best to avoid really uncharitable statements about 20% of the world’s population, or maybe they should be backed up by any evidence whatsoever that Muslim Immigrants are engaged in a political project to make Western countries “like them”.

      • + 1.

        So many weird generations here about the Islamic world and muslims living in the West that there isn’t even a way to reply.

      • -1

      • Evidence? Here’s a great place to start, Witten.


        • Thank you Kozick, Robert Spencer’s books are a “kind of evidence”.
          I will not derail any further. I gladly did not know anything at all about Mr. Spencer until right now.
          If anyone else here would like to follow up on Kozick’s suggestion,you could journey over to JihadWatch the blog run by him. There you can come to your own apprasial of: if this a well-balanced guy with an accurate view of the Islamic faith and world.

          • Fact 1: The VAST majority of Muslims are NOT terrorists.
            Fact 2: The VAST majority of terrorists ARE muslims.
            Observation: The silent majority has never led history.
            Question: What is the silent majority doing to distinguish themselves or purity their faith? I’d be less prone to generalization if I heard them speak more in their own defense.

            America is not the agressor in all circumstances. Many people come here HATING our country, right or wrong. Jesus NEVER endorsed a hateful cause. I think his approach would vary from immigrant to immigrant on an individual basis since he can clearly see a man’s heart.

          • Miguel, and 9/11 was worse than Hiroshima how exactly? Terrorism is a tactic used by both state actors and non-state actors alike. It’s just much easier to demonize those who neither look like us, talk like us, or worship like us. I’m not so sure Jesus would go along with our neat distinctions like that though…

      • sarahmorgan says

        sigh….it’s very difficult to refrain from “uncharitable statements about 20% of the world’s population” when things like this keep popping up.

  7. warren merriman says

    It seems to me that what is being put forward here is Michael Spencer’s idea of Jesus-shaped spirituality. I have a whole lot less trouble with Rush/Beck/Hannitty than Jim Wallis.

    • Amen!

    • Instead of Michael Spencer, Rush/Beck or Hannity, or Wallis, what about putting forward what Jesus actually said and did?

      All of the law and the prophets hang on two commands, according to Jesus, and that is love for God and love for people (Matt. 22:40). Jesus said that. Love trumps every other law and command. I cannot reconcile how we can read the words of Jesus and think that love for country or love for law or anything else is more important than love for God and love for people (the first and second greatest command, but also equal in weight according to Jesus in Matt. 22). If we walk with Jesus for three years, we’d show love to people regardless of from where they came, what they’ve done, how they hate us, how they hurt us or any other thing. I cannot reconcile that I’d think anything different if I got to walk side-by-side with Jesus, the Savior of the whole world, for three years or even one hour.

      • Kris

        If we walk with Jesus for three years, we’d show love to people regardless of from where they came, what they’ve done, how they hate us, how they hurt us or any other thing.

        Agreed. Where the debate comes in, I think, is how the showing of love to people, all people, plays itself out in the world. Does loving your neighbor as your self mean that you help people within the boundaries of the civil law or does it mean you do what ever is necessary to help them, even if it happens to be illegal?

        • Donna,

          I find that living by the by civil law is possible without trumping God’s greatest commands. I’ve not yet had a personal encounter with an illegal alien, for instance, in need but I do have migrant worker friends who are here legally. We love them by them by being kind, bringing them groceries from time to time, picking them up for church, advocating before a bully landlord who tried to kick them out without proper notices, taking the kids swimming, eating at their table and them at mine, being in authentic relationship with them…etc…that wouldn’t break any civil laws if they were here without proper papers. Loving someone doesn’t mean to me that I have to employ anyone illegally, but I can love them by sharing my bounty and my true friendship. I can share God’s love and I can love without breaking civil laws. And I do give to Caesar what is his and abide by the laws of this land.

          That makes me wonder…what would you and I say if civil law demanded we had to denounce Christ? What if my mother told me I had to denounce Christ or lose my earthly inheritance? I’m not a theologian by any means, but I would choose Christ to the death rather than denounce him at the authority of earthly powers (which reminds me of Peter’s denial thrice before the rooster). Oh if I have to identify with Christ to the point of death, I pray for the strength to surrender this wretched life for eternity with him. I don’t pretend to be so holy, but I will pray to better love God, love others and follow Jesus.

    • Since I’m of more or less the opposite opinion, perhaps you could explain to me why you have less problem with Rush/Beck/Hannitty than you do with Jim Walis? Specifically, is it just a matter of what your politics are, or is there some other reason you prefer those men to Walis?

  8. “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

    I’m tempted just to leave it at that, because I think it 90% of a complete answer.

    Jesus didn’t fix Rome, and since he didn’t I don’t think he expected any other single person to do so either. As individuals we should live up to the great commandment as best as we are able. To the extent we can influence the law, we should exert our influence to bring the law into accordence with it.

    How to go about doing that, as a country, is of course expressly political.

  9. Nothing pulling out an explosive question today! i have written four answers thus far. Maybe this one will be the one to get submitted!

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, NIV)

    “‘The one who had mercy on him.’ … ‘Go and do likewise.'” (Luke 10:37, NIV)

    We are to be neighbors to all. We are to love our neighbors. Therefore, we should love all those we encounter, including immigrants, regardless of legal status.

    That said, we do live in a society that has laws. Jesus did not tell his disciples to overthrow the government. In fact, he taught that we should obey the laws of our society. Therefore, if my government has given certain people the right to work, but not others, then I should respect that decision. If I think that the determination is unfair, I should promote justice in a legal manner. Unless a law is completely contrary to Christian life, I should not break that law.

    Therefore, my goal is to love, respect, and have mercy for all those that I encounter. The personal answer is clear cut.

    I have a significant moral quandary with respect to what I think society ought to do. I am not sure that societies can survive by letting anyone immigrate without some process and limitation. However, I also think that if someone can find an opportunity, it should be available to them. The US currently limits the number of available work visas, especially in the un-skilled and semi-skilled areas. I think that this limitation could be reduced, but an offer of employment would be required prior to the granting of a work visa. Jesus did not encourage his disciples to live off of unearned spoils. Likewise, I do not think a system should be in place that encourages this type of living, particularly as it relates to immigration. Jesus also did not encourage limiting our relationships based on race, clan, or tribe (nationality in modern speak). Therefore, if a job is available and the best person to fill it is an immigrant, they should get the job. It should be up to the employer to determine who he or she would like to hire.

    • I agree that love is the guiding principle. Endorsing hatred is not loving. An immigrant who comes here to become one of us and partake of our prosperity is welcome. An immigrant who comes here to leech the system and complain about it is in need of some tough love. And especially one who comes here bent on destruction deserves our strongest confrontation. Let’s deal with reality here: Not all of them are the desperate wounded in need of a good samaritan: Some of them would rather see us as that.

  10. Some thoughts from an AZ Catholic.

    When you meet them, undocumented workers are very likely part of the body of Christ. – only poorer. Befriend them. Shake their hands. Sit next to them at Mass (or take them). There are, in particular, Catholic churches with sympathetic priests and nuns who can put undocumented folk in contact with people who can help them. Treat them all with respect and love, particularly the children. Speak up for their persons and their ethnic group when others insult them – and they will. Interpret for them.

    Don’t ask at first about their immigration status, even if you have suspicions. It’s none of your business, unless you find yourselves employing them, and then have long talks with your attorney and your priest. But there’s no harm in prudentially giving them cash if they (like anyone else) need it to pay bills. They may well tell you how they got the US. Entering the US illegally is not bank robbery; these people are not immoral.

    If you can give them help navigating your culture, do it. Make sure they know where the poverty or low-cost health clinics are that will treat them, e.g,, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Perhaps talk to an immigration attorney for them. Rarely, but sometimes, people enter the US illegally without knowing that they actually have legal grounds to remain. Moreover, there are certain things, like the intelligent preparation of a power of attorney, that are perfectly legal for anyone – regardless of immigration status – to use and which can help maintain the family and its property for a while if a father or mother gets picked up and put in jail.

    All the while, be discreet. Be sure to talk to them, but be careful who you talk to about them, particularly if you know they’re here without papers. Don’t lie.

    • If I may add —

      I think of my favorite fictional “Christian,” the Bishop of Digne in Les Miserables, for the way he treated the fugitive Jean Valjean. Perhaps I’m romanticizing things too much, but I can’t help but be impressed by the way the Bishop put Valjean’s very human interests and need for redemption ahead of the petty needs, by comparison, of the law and Inspector Javert. It’s the Good Samaritan parable writ large, coupled with Matthew 25 (“the least of these my brethren”) as well. That trumps a strict, unthinking application of Romans 13 everytime.

      • DreamingWings says

        The full depth of the Bishop’s actions become even more impressive when you learn a bit about economics of the era. Many people didn’t keep their money in banks. They kept their ‘savings’ by owning valuable objects. The most ‘standardized’ item for this practice was the family silver. The Bishop, essentially, handed over every cent from his, and his families’, life savings.

    • This expresses the response I was formulating, in much better detail.

      Piggybacking on what Jon said, three teachings come to mind:

      (1) Judge not, lest you too be judged. If an immigrant is illegal, he has broken the law. Can you imagine any circumstances under which you would break a law?

      (2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Legal or not, the immigrant is among us and our neighbor. He is likely to be poor and very vulnerable, esp. if undocumented. There is real human need there for help understanding the US, esp. our economic and legal systems and sources of charitable aid. As Jon points out, getting people plugged into the right resources could also help them to establish themselves on a legal basis, which is better in the longrun for everybody.

      (3) Render onto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s: Don’t break the law (at least not without some very good reasons). But do help and love others as God commands.

      (4) There are repeated instructions to accept the alien and stranger throughout the Old Testament. Those instructions were specifically to Israel, but the ethical concerns behind these rules are still relevant.

    • Awesome. Well said & well thought out. This is the kind of answer you get from someone who has spent time with Jesus AND illegal immigrants 🙂

    • Half way (currently) down the comments, and the first one that actually attempts to answer the question…!

  11. Later some immigration agents bring an immigrants who had been caught working illegally. The agents say to Jesus, “The law of our land says we must kick this guy out of our country. What do you say?” They said this to trap him.
    Jesus began texting. So they asked him again. Jesus put his phone down and said, “If any of you have never broken the law, please escort this man away.”
    Slowly the agents walked away.
    “Where are they? Did no one condemn you?” Jesus asked.
    “No, sir”
    “Then neither do I condemn you. Now go, leave your illegal life.”


    Jesus would attend a political anti-immigration rally, and then turn to the crowd and say:
    ‘You hypocrites! Don’t you know that your ancestors came on this land, taking it forcefully from the Natives? You are like a man who looks in a mirror and then goes away and forgets what he looks like.
    You hypocrites! You pay low wages and employ these people to keep your high and lofty lifestyle, and then blame the workers for being here. You use them, and then deny them their rights! Remember that what you do to the least of these, you do to me.

    Let that be a warning, before it’s too late”

  12. Buford Hollis says

    Jesus in the gospel stories comes across is pretty laid back. I envision him taking the phenomenon of illegal immigration for granted as part of the social landscape here (just as he did prostitution and burglary), and even telling witty stories about it. INS agents would be told to do their job and not take bribes. Of course he and his family are usually portrayed as having been refugees themselves, though this might just be a (how shall I put this?) archetypal recapitulation of Joseph from the OT.

    What is hard for me to imagine is Jesus giving any systematic advice for the running of government or society. What advice he does give tends towards the hyperbolic and impractical. (“Give to all who ask”?!!)

  13. Since, after spending years with Him, his disciples seemed to have little clue as to how Jesus would answer most questions, I’m going to cop out and act like them.

    When it comes to the immigration question, I think Jesus would give an answer that would surprise all of us.

    • This ties into what I recall to be an iMonk quote. During his ministry, Jesus did not answer our questions so much as question our answers.

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says

      So good that all of us, liberals and conservatives, Christians and not, would gather around and say: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

    • My son just told me about something called a “Chinese cut.”

      He’s 15 and I was discussing this question with him and I mentioned something about how I used to have to wait in line at the water fountain when I was a kid.

      A “Chinese cut” is when you let someone cut behind you in line, putting the “cutter” in front of everyone else behind you.

      I have no idea where these kids get such terms.

      I do know that our God is a Just God.

      Would He see to it that American citizenship come to those who have waited patiently in line for years before considering the illegal? Would He allow “Chinese cutting?”

      I suppose the story of the Laborers in the Vineyard of Matthew 20 might be used by those on both sides of the discussion, but particularly by those supporting amnesty.

      So, again I have no answer. Only more questions.

      I know one thing: Our Just God finished the story in Matthew 20 by saying, “The last shall be first, and the first last.”

      This statement should make more than a few Americans tremble.

  14. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    Im laughing at all the folks who say that Jesus taught his disciples to obey all the laws of Rome, and to respect them.

    That’s right, the Romans would crucify someone for going around telling people to obey them. Can anyone with any sense of history imagine this?

  15. Concerning the law, govt, and in particulat taxes, we are to give to Ceaser what is his. Therefore the same thought process can be applied to the illegal immigration issue. We are to abide by the statutes put in place by the govt. Therefore we should concern ourselves with Christ and not law making. If the govt wants to crack down on illegal immigration then allow it to be, and if they relax or current borders then allow that the same. We as Christians care and involve ourselves far too much in political concerns when we would be better off caring for those immigrants currently here. After all, what would Jesus do? Run for govt, write new laws into place, etc? Or, would he rally around those currently here with love, affection, and the good news?

    • I agree, Josh.

      • Americans, including American Christians, in my view, tend to invoke THE LAW and love to sit idy by while the gov’t “cracks down” on people, only when they are convinced the law or government conduct they’re defending doesn’t apply to them. Take my state of AZ.

        Everyone knows about SB 1070, the notorious ‘papers please’ law that authorized the police to stop and question anyone who appeared to be in the country illegally. Many top police officers frankly confessed that this law [now enjoined] could not be enforced without racial profiling, i.e., viewing all Latino-looking people with suspicion, while ignoring the light-skinned folks. “So what?” said many light-skinned Arizonans, including Christians. “There’s no other way to enforce THE LAW.”

        At the same time, well under the radar nationally, was the debate over the use of police cameras recently installed on AZ highways to catch speeders. The cameras, which were plainly marked, were set to photograph anyone speeding about 11 miles over the limit. The speeder was a sent a ticket.

        For a year or so, the cameras did their job — too well. Lots of speeders were caught, impartially and regardless of skin color. And the cameras were financially beneficial – money was raised by the fines and saved by permitting the highway patrol offices to deploy more efficiently.

        But you should have heard the howls! Interestingly, the loudest pro-SB 1070 voices in our legislature were among the loudest against the use of these cameras, which they decried as a massive and insulting intrusion by the government of one’s privacy. “It was just so unfair!” these light-skinned people said. Soon after, the cameras were removed.

        Jim Crow laws provide another instance where Christians (whites) simply said, “The law’s the law.” But, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, thank God for Dr. King and all the others who challenged THE LAW.

  16. Compassion to individuals, certainly, but not assistance in breaking the law. Jesus Christ expressed remarkably little interest in the legal systems and laws of his days, or their objective “justice” — no, even when he was asked whether rebellion against the obviously unjust Roman occupation was justified, he responded, basically, that the government should be obeyed. And when he was unjustly condemned to death, he didn’t organize a protest against the unjust regime, or even the death penalty as being unjust, but submitted himself to it without resistance and in great (extreme) humility.

    I realize well that the idea behind this post was to poke at conservative Christians and the views many of us have about illegal immigrants. However, be *very* careful about using Christ to justify this or that political position. Left/liberal/social gospel Christians are just as guilty of doing this as the religious right , perhaps even moreso. Both approaches are wrong. Christ was interested in individual compassion — it was pretty much impossible to get him interested in political machinations against the state, either in its Roman or Jewish forms.

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says

      Again, if Jesus was so very uninterested in politics, why did the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities conspire to execute him with the title of “King of the Jews” over his head?

      If Jesus was interested individual compassion, why did the political machinations of the state kill him? Who kills someone for running around telling people to practice individual compassion?

      Jesus seemed to think that his cross was a new kinds of politics: Mark 10:35-45.

      • The Gospel answers that question: Pilate, presented with the agitation of the Jewish authorities, was threatened by their accusation that he was “King of the Jews”. It wasn’t the political machinations of Christ, but what the Jews accused him of that made Pilate feel threatened by Christ. Suggesting that Christ was an actual political threat goes against the Gospel as well, where Pilate is depicted as describing Christ as “just” and washes his hands of the death penalty applied to him.

        The notion of a political Christ is fundamentally at odds with the Gospels, whether you are trying to get him to advocate conservative or liberal political agendas.

      • Buford Hollis says

        As I understand matters, anyone gathering an unauthorized crowd would have been regarded as a rebel. Roman policy was to execute such people. I doubt there was much concern for due process. That said, I doubt that Jesus was the pro-Roman figure that later Christian propaganda made him out to be. Probably none of them *liked* being occupied.

    • Brendan — The idea behind this post was not to poke at conservative Christians and their positions. You don’t know where I stand on this issue or even if I’m decided. I haven’t stated my position here because I’ve invited commenters to present Jesus’ views and not their own, and I’ll follow my own rules.

  17. This is obviously a tough one. What strikes me is that most of the comments and scriptural references talk about one-on-one interactions. That part is simple. Respect, Christian charity, etc. The part no one talks about is the fact that in the parable of the Good Samaritan there are now 11 million people lying by the side of the road. The scale of the problem is unknown in the Bible; any such massive migration would qualify as an invasion.
    In addition, in Jesus’s day there was no government help for the poor, no social services, etc. That’s why I have a hard time finding the right Christian template for this issue.

    • Just imagine if there were 11 million Christians walking down that road and each one were to reach out a hand and pull someone up. That would be a one-on-one example of compassion, which you called simple, right? Hmm, now if there were only that many people willing to go on that walk!
      (Sorry if that was outside the parameters of the metaphor.)

  18. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.

    The two greatest commands and what I pray over my life daily. We are God’s creation; Jesus died for all. He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. The world may change, issues come and go, nations rise and fall, but He does not. I believe he would love all humanity who comes to him regardless of from where they come. So I don’t join political debate, but rather love whoever God places in my life because I think Jesus would.

  19. Did the holy family have passports or visas when they fled to Egypt? 🙂

    I certainly think Jesus would expect any of his followers to show mercy and compassion first and foremost. As far as the actual laws of the country, I don’ t know how energy we should invest in them. I do think there laws that are inherently unjust that we can speak out against, but how that relates to immigration, I don’t know offhand. I don’t really have a problem with a government defining citizenship in a certain way – it seems like it’s just a necessity. So once you define citizenship, you have some that make the cut and some that don’t.

  20. So, is it your immediate or a is it a considered response that leads you to deduce that the views of Rush/Beck/Hannity/et al are not where Jesus would fall on this issue? I think it is truly a faulty response that comes from too little evidence since we would have to believe that Jesus would endorse the breaking of civil law. It seems to me that compassion does not negate the desire to see the laws that are in place are upheld. Is it ok for those who come to our country and in doing so become criminals, to then not have to face justice? How far does that thinking lead? What about those who smuggle the illegal immigrants? Is that ok and would Jesus excuse them? What about a person who breaks the law in any other way? Now, I think Jesus might (?) want the laws changed, but I don’t think he would endorse criminal activity.

    • It seems to me that there’s a hierarchy when it comes to following the law. I read a book a long time ago by Josh McDowell and Norman Geisler called Love is Always Right in which they make the make that in some instances, ethics demand overriding one moral law in order to fulfill the other one. The classic example is a gunman entering your house and demanding to know where your family is. They make the case that not telling the truth to the gunmen in that instant would not be wrong because saving the lives of your family members is the greater good. So, if an immigrant is genuinely at the end of his rope (as many are), and crosses the border illegally just to keep his family alive, I have a hard time condemning him.

      It reminds me of this passage in Luke 6:

      1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

      3Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

      • And what of those who do not come to work, but to sell drugs, to kidnap, and murder? Because that is what is going on at the border and that is what concerns me most.

        • Well, yeah, I’d like to see that sort of behavior dealt with, too. The thing about drug dealing, though, is that it’s not a one-way street. If there weren’t such a high demand coming out of the US, there wouldn’t be the incentive for people to sell. In that respect, the illegal immigration issue is a symptom of a larger problem.

        • I read an estimate where legalizing marijuana in the US would cut cartel revenues by 50% effectively crippling them if not putting them out of business.

          Right now we are fueling those murders in a self-reinforcing cycle where
          US cash from the drug trade -> arms bought in the US by Mexican drug dealers
          -> used to kill police in Mexico and other traffickers here and there -> protection for their US cash revenues -> repeat.

          But ending that cycle would also mean ending funding for hundreds of of drug task forces that employ thousands of people, so I expect we’ll keep supplying corporate welfare to the Mexican drug cartels. If they got smart, they’d hire lobbyists to keep things the way they are, like any other billion dollar corporation. Pardon my sarcasm.

        • Well, then we are dealing with laws regarding kidnapping, murder, and drug dealing, not immigration law.

    • The Gospel is a countercultural message. It asks us to love not just our family and friends, but even our enemies and those who actively mean us harm. We truly follow Christ’s example when we can embody that kind of selfless love. Illegal immigrants may be breaking America’s law but they are also children of God, a God who created all not just the citizens of this country or another.

      In Matt. 22 when Jesus said the two most important commands are love (God and others), he concluded with “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

      I personally don’t know how to reconcile that anything else can take precedence for a believer.

  21. we are all of us ‘strangers in a strange land’

    might be time to recognize the common humanity in one another

    We are Americans and :
    if we fear something ‘alien’, let us fear the loss of compassion among any of us
    towards those in our midst who are ‘not of our kind’

  22. The incarnational love of Christ would call me to both respect the laws of the land and their right to legislate who’s in and who’s out while at the same time, welcome the stranger I may personally encounter, regardless of the legal status. He would lead me to reach out to the disenfranchised, not turn them in. He didn’t turn in prostitutes or condone their stoning (or sin) but stood in the gap for them. He would call us to do the same, less politically or ideologically but 10,000,000 of his followers, each reaching out and welcoming the stranger he puts in our way. And after three years of being with him, I hope I would be looking for them as he did for me.

  23. I would minister to the illegal immigrant. After all, even the Syro-Phenician woman ate the crumbs from the master’s table. Then, like Jesus told the Samaritan woman and the Gadarene demoniac, I would tell the illegal immigrant to return home to his or her family and people to preach the Gospel (and like Paul told Onesimus to return to his master); not to covet the wealth, peace, and safety of America, but to take up the Cross and follow Christ.

  24. If the incarnational love of Jesus would compel us to love those who are breaking the civil laws of our land, then what about rapists, burglars, robbers, etc. Should we welcome them and give them free pass? I really wonder where does this stop. I think if we, as the genuine presence of Jesus on earth, as His body are to be both compassionate and just then we must do all we can to change the laws, but not turn a blind eye to those who have willfully and wantonly broken a duly constituted law. I have a hard time with that. And, if you live in an area where illegal immigration is overwhelming the criminal justice system, the welfare system, the infrastructure of society, then you understand this is not a “victimless crime”. I am struggling with this. There are many innocent people who are being victimized in many ways by “illegal immigration”. I have no answers, but know that the status quo is overwhelming good people.

    • I do think we should be compassionate to rapists, burgars, robbers, etc. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can mitigate all the consequences of their crime. I think the western view of punishment and reward is that those things are something that are passed down or enforced from an exterior agent, such as a judge. A more Jewish mindset is that consequences are naturally tied into the action. So even if a murderer is not “brought to justice” through the legal system, he reaps the consequences of his sin in his life.

      So, it seems to me, the illegal immigration question really boils down to what do we as a society think the consequence should be for someone illegally entering the country. It’s one thing to say they should be deported, but in reality, that just seems like an impossibility when we’re dealing with 11 million people or more.

    • To struggle with this, to admit we have no solid answers is an honest place to be. Part of my own wrestling with scenarios like this is that I haven’t walked with Jesus on earth for the past 3 yrs. This is not our story as it was for his first disciples. And yet we know in the Spirit that he is not only with us but in us. How the “Christ in me” calls me to respond to an issue like this may not be the same as it would be for you – or for me the next encounter I have with an illegal immigrant. This is not to say that our faith is solely a private, individual affair. It is also communal, whether local or global. Some may feel led to support the existing laws, some to change them, while still others to provide sanctuary and care for those “illegals”. We can try to develop a neat “one size fits all” approach to issues like this but I think it not that simple. How do we/I, in humility, act justly and love mercy? How do I honor the laws of the land but honor the law of love as supreme? So we watch and pray, and follow where he leads us to go.

    • We don’t want to love our enemies. We don’t want to suffer and be hurt. We don’t want to be poor but neither do we want to love the poor. We like to look at citizens of other nations as strangers and sometimes as enemies though we know God created us all. We like to think we are innocent and “good” people and we ignore that Christ loves all, died for all, and that we are only sinners saved by grace too. We think that Jesus would be with us in our nice buildings on Sunday mornings because we are his people. We don’t see him down the street, around the corner, with the poor illegal immigrant, prostitute, rapist and burglar. He didn’t condone sin but he loved people no matter what. We don’t want to forgive those who wrong us. We don’t want to hang on the two greatest commandments though Jesus gave them to us clearly. We don’t want to become less so that Jesus becomes more. We don’t want to die so that others might live.

      I have no answers either, but know Jesus cared much more about loving people than anything else.

    • I would say it depends on whether or not they are the oppressed or the oppressor. With the rapist, I think that’s a given. They are the oppressor. Burgulary and robbery? In most situations we see on t.v., certainly they’re the oppressor. But even in the OT, if they returned what they stole and made restitution, they were OK. But if they’re stealing for the what-sometimes-feels-mythical reason that they have no food and no means to get it or money to get it, then I’d say they are the oppressed and perhaps a little grace should be shown.

      • Did Jesus qualify who could be saved, who to extend His grace to?

        We are loving on a hurting young man who says “but I told you I’m a bad person” when we talk about Christ’s love for him. We don’t know what he’s done but when we tell him we see him as God does–a child He created and a child He loves worth saving so that Jesus would have died just for him, he weeps like a child. He asks, “what do you do when you can’t stop sinning and you want to?” We tell him he needs Jesus, to surrender all. We tell him he’s not too far gone. We’re only loving him and helping him to get financial aid forms worked out for college (he’s a legal immigrant).

        The rapist is not beyond saving grace to be forgiven and made clean. The burglar is not beyond saving grace to be forgiven and made clean. Nor the murderer. Nor the terrorist. Nor the (fill in the blank). Are we really all that different? We all sin and fall short. Not one is good enough to deserve Christ’s death in her place. And he loves me in spite of that truth. He also loves my persecutors, my enemies just as much. Oppressors are oppressed by their sin and need Christ. Christians are damned by their sin apart from Christ. If we walk with Jesus, we will extend grace, not condoning sin, but we will extend grace and love our enemies and all of humanity.

        • I apologize for not being clear. I was not implying that the oppressor cannot be saved, or are beyond God’s grace. The question BlueWarrior posed, as I understood it, was about *civil* laws, and that is what I was responding to. I’m not going to insist on civil law being carried out to punish the oppressed. That was my point. Of course a rapist can be saved. Of course a rapist can be forgiven. Of course Jesus loves them, too. Unless I missed something, I don’t think that’s up for debate on this site.

  25. I would hope that after 3 years with Jesus enough of the love your neighbor, do unto others, and onto the least of these would have soaked in for me to see everyone as my neighbor. And that still means everyone. Jesus didn’t come to overthrow governments by force of arms but to change us and our communities by the subversive force of love. That is what the early Christians did. They were known for not only taking care of each other but for taking care of the sick (in the plagues), the unwanted (babies abandoned on trash heaps) etc. Now once Christianity merged with the powers that be things changed.
    I think we can work towards trying to align our civil society more with what we believe but that is not our primary mission on the whole. Our mission is to live out what Jesus teaches us and spread that good news. I say on the whole because of people like MLK Jr. who had a vision of changing civil society to correct a huge injustice and he was able to bring his vision forth and really change how most of our country view race.. Listening to his speeches I can not doubt he was trying to live out the gospel in his life.

  26. From the first time I read “Mere Churchianity,” I have thought that Michael Spencer’s section using illegal immigration as an illustration was, alone, worth the price of the book. So thank you for posting this.

    First, LOVE the response from EK!

    Second, my “legal” immigrant ancestors were only as “legal” as “illegals” are today. I would more than likely not be here if they’d had to deal with all the hoops and fees we’ve put in place. My family was too poor to come here if they came here today. So the “Yeah, but our ancestors came here legally” argument (if anyone’s thinking it) is moot, IMO.

    Third, I continue to be disturbed by those who respond to this issue with “God/Jesus/Paul tells us to obey civil authorities.” Not because it’s not true, but because it’s not fully true. It’s a pharisaical response. It puts the details of the law above the whole of the law, which intended to lift oppression. According the the traditional Jewish numbering, the Ten Words (Commandments) begin with “I am the YHWH Elohim, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” The first Rule of Life for God’s people mentions redemption. I am God who brought you out of oppression. I will not oppress you. My burden is light. And now, here is how you live so you honor me, and so that neither you nor those around you are oppressed.

    Exodus 21:1 says: “Here are the LAWS you must explain to the people of Israel.” The word that our English Bible usually translates as “law” or “commandment” doesn’t actually mean “law.” The original Hebrew word that the Bible uses is ‘mishpat,’ and ‘mishpat’ means “justice.” So it would actually be more accurate to read Exodus 21:1 as: “Here are the WAYS OF JUSTICE you must explain to the people of Israel.” In other words, how to deal “justly” with God and with humankind. God wasn’t only trying to give us a list of rules to obey. He’s trying to teach us how to relate righteously with Himself and how to relate in a just way in all of our interactions with other people. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had lost sight of this. God’s people have always struggled with this, and continue with that struggle today.

    Christians obey civil authorites as far as we are able, out of respect to God who gave them the authority in the first place, and to foster a listening ear, peace and unity. But “as far as we are able” must stop when it goes against love for God and love for neighbor. Jesus condemns the pharisees for being so precise in their tithing of even their herbs, and yet ignoring the people around them, including their own parents who they are commanded to honor. We see how ridiculous it is when we read that story. Yet so many fail to see the parallels to this issue.

    Again, the chief priest is so concerned about putting blood money in the treasury (Mt. 27:6), but didn’t seem to mind so much the laws and scripture against falsely accusing a person, or sentencing an innocent person to death (Ex. 23:6-7; Prov. 17:15,23), both of which they did in regard to Jesus.

    God is not against “breaking laws” for the sake of not breaking laws. After all, Jesus commends David for breaking God’s law by eating the forbidden priestly bread. Peter certainly didn’t obey when told not to preach anymore. Paul submitted to authorities when arrested, and finally martyred, but he refused to stop living in such a way that would please the authorities but disobey God so as to avoid arrest. And do we recall that when Joseph planned to quietly “put Mary away”–before his dream, so he didn’t know Mary was innocent–he was actually disobeying God’s Law? According to Torah, he was supposed to stone her. And yet, God calls him righteous because of his compassion.

    But the Biblical example that has stood out the most to me of late is that of Boaz. As a child, it always seemed like Ruth “stood out” to the people around her. Well, of course, b/c she’s the main character in the story, right? But even so, the people always seemed to notice her. Was she exceptionally beautiful? Was she dressed in hideous rags? What was the deal? I never considered that she might not have looked like an Israelite. She was a Moabite, afterall. Did she look different, act different, speak different? And Boaz married Ruth, a Moabite woman. In doing so, Boaz breaks God’s Law. God had specifically excluded Ammonites and Moabites, and their descendants, from entering into the assembly of the Lord (or congregation of Israel), forever (Deut. 23:3,6). God had, further, forbidden His people from marrying a Moabite (Nehemiah 13). But that is exactly what Boaz did. We look at the story today and know intuitively that Boaz was a hero, but we often forget that Boaz could have very well been considered a villain to the religious leaders of his day. After all, they might have said, the law forbids people like Ruth from being included in Israeli society—and they would have been right. Boaz himself could have used some great “the Bible tells me so” justifications to deny Ruth compassion according to the consensus of the religious elite of his day. But Boaz instead chose to show kindness to a Moabite woman, who had migrated with her mother-in-law because of famine and death (i.e. economic hardship), and is portrayed as a hero precisely because he showed compassion to Ruth despite what the law — even God’s law — said. Boaz did what even God’s law forbade and He was commended for it — by God. And did you know, a Moabite descendent sat on Israel’s throne (David) and now sits at God’s own right hand (Jesus), for Boaz and Ruth were the ancestors of Jesus. A Moabite is now in God’s assembly, forever.

    Kind of strange isn’t it? God writes a law and then commends people for breaking it? It appears that in scripture, God commends people for choosing human compassion over the letter of the law. His or ours. As the beloved apostle Paul wrote, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). We are to uphold God’s Law and all His ways of Justice because they teach us how to live righteously toward God and neighbor. If our obedience is bringing oppression, however, it’s time to let the Spirit lead us into life-giving, oppression-lifting acts.

    The logical retort is, “Well, (in the U.S.) we live in a democratic federal republic, so use legal means to change the law.” Great. Except that many of the people calling for changes that would INCREASE oppression to people who are already oppressed, are professing Christians. There may be legal issues involved, but there are true heart issues that need to be addressed.

    This forum has been talking alot about the importance of grace, lately, with the TNC discussion. Don’t let it be an interesting theological doctrine, only. God shows us grace so that we can show grace to others. For a Christian, there is no law that trumps that.

    Grace and peace to all.

    • But this is still all one-on-one. You seem to suggest that we should simply open the borders, since that would be helpful to all 50 million (no joke) Mexicans who report a desire to come here.
      You ever seen the movie “Cocoon”? All the old folks swam in the pool and sucked all the force out of it. When the old lady died and they needed the force, it was gone.
      So, do you believe there is any limit on our charity? Do you believe it is possible for the weight of millions of immigrants to overwhelm our country, i.e. swamp the lifeboat?

      • Our country is currently limiting food production (as in, paying farmers to stop producing) and disposing of food b/c we’re producing too much for the demand. It seems to me, at least for now, that’s not an issue.

        If we’re talking Mexico, the real problem is the drug gangs crossing the borders. Those are a real threat and do need to be dealt with.

        Ultimately, there is no limit in God’s charity, and if we are to be imitators of God, ideally there should be no limit in ours. The question is seeking His wisdom in handling situations in the best way. I believe God’s charity does work even in a practical world. Our own foolish “wisdom” just can’t fathom it.

      • Also, if there is a real possibility of everyone leaving Mexico (for example) b/c the conditions are so bad, perhaps the most charitable thing to do would be to go there and figure out how to help improve conditions there so it isn’t necessary for the oppressed to leave. (Easier said than done, yes, but that seems like a better use of our time and money than a huge wall.)

  27. Gentlemen
    What would I do after spending three years following Jesus around:

    My response:
    Matthew 26:56 (The Message)
    55-56Then Jesus addressed the mob: “What is this—coming out after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. You’ve done it this way to confirm and fulfill the prophetic writings.”
    Then all the disciples cut and ran.

    Fifty days later what is my response:

    Acts 2:1 (The Message)
    A Sound Like a Strong Wind
    1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

    They ( and I in a sense) spent three years with part of the Trinity! God made flesh! What was their response in the face of trouble. Cut and run.

    What is my response to trouble after Pentecost. Go out and do. Do the work with boldness because Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit is doing the work.

    I wish to remind all that as disciples of Jesus, ALL of our existence starts and ends with Jesus.

    We should remember that we are Christ-centered and when we are not, then things get unbalanced. Sometimes very quickly unbalanced.

  28. I often feel very cynical about humankind. I despair in the face of the unkindness of the extreme right and the illogic of the extreme left. Like Elijah I sometimes wonder if God still has a witness in this world.

    I don’t feel that way now. I am touched with the responses you all have made here. You took the challenge seriously, and through the words of many above I can imagine I’m hearing at least some of what Jesus would say.

  29. An afterthought.

    In a previous article Damaris wrote about how redefining people we don’t like as ‘not-really-enemies’ extricates us from the requirement to love them. (Christians need more enemies)

    I wonder if saying “Jesus wasn’t interested in politics” isn’t a similar ploy: giving us the ‘right’ to hold whatever political opinions we want, without reference to the Gospel or Jesus.