immigration and amnesty

One of the great controversies in our nation rolling over into 2015 has had to do with illegal immigrants, particularly involving children. Last year saw countless children smuggled into our nation illegally through no choice or fault of their own, arriving in a strange land with strange language, foods, and unfamiliar customs. It also saw the deportation of many families where the children were born here, are familiar with our customs, yet as US citizens have either lost their homeland or else lost their parents to deportation and found themselves living in foster homes. What a lose-lose proposition for those kids! The latter policy and practice was ended due to the President’s executive order, but it has caused particular controversy even among Christians, of all people. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/fact-sheet-immigration-accountability-executive-action and then, noting the disparity between self-identified Christians and our overall populace, see http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/12/religion-politics-tracking-survey-december-2014/to get at what I’m referring to.
Perhaps the most emotionally loaded word associated with this controversy is “amnesty.” What this word suggests is that we should violate the laws of our land in order to allow illegal immigrants to remain here under certain conditions. A common response I hear as a pastor listening to my fellow Christians is, “let them get in line to come here legally like our ancestors had to do.” Makes good sense to a degree, not counting our Euro-ancestors who came ashore without application or permission and found welcome from the legendary Squanto of our Thanksgiving lore. And from other pagans born here first.
Yet, as a Pastor I cannot help but wondering about this: what is the difference between amnesty and forgiveness? Or what do we mean when we say in church, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” Do we really mean that at all?
If I hear my fellow Christians correctly, the fear is that if we offer amnesty we will be inviting more and more illegals to cross our border. And that we must prove we are a nation of laws, or else lawlessness will prevail. This is basically the same argument as the Jewish Christians used to stop us Gentiles from becoming Christians back in the 1st Century. We were considered outside the law as regards diet, circumcision, etc. Despite their argument, God offered us His executive order, even in violation of His Old Testament Laws, granting us forgiveness, i.e., amnesty, and a pathway to citizenship in heaven. And I read in the Bible these words straight from the mouth of Christ himself: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:14-15. Well, okay, maybe Jesus was kidding around with us on that one, but I seriously doubt it. And I quite seriously wonder what it means when surveys of any kind seem to suggest that 40% of my fellow white evangelicals would refuse amnesty to the families affected by our President’s executive order? We Gentile Christians may want to rethink our position in view of God’s grace in our own lives, otherwise we look way too much like the debtor in Christ’s parable who accepts forgiveness of his own debt only to send his own debtor to prison. And we all should remember what happened to that debtor afterwards.

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