Nehemiah 2:17 (NIV) 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”
Jerusalem had walls. The ancients knew the danger of unchecked immigration. They were to be compassionate for sure. But smart. And realistic. We read in Nehemiah 4:13 that some workers stood with weapons to guard others who were doing the re-building work. The reality of sin and evil were known to God’s people.
Walls. The Old Testament speaks of “walls” 94 times in the NIV version. People groups have always built walls. Most walls are designed to keep people out. One exception was post-World War Two Germany where the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in! In any case, walls are as much a reality in every society as are locks on doors. In a world filled with evil-doers, man builds walls. Sensible nations have always been careful about who is welcomed; reality is that from ancient times forward man has put up walls.
In our national discussion about immigration and whom we should welcome into America, the views range from anyone who wants to come in to nearly no one. But it is not appreciated that we have always had barriers and requirements. My paternal grandfather Benedetto came to Ellis Island. N.Y. in 1899 from Sicily. Even a quick study of the protocols in use at that time makes it clear many people were turned away. Disease. Criminal records. It did not take much for the would-be immigrant to be sent back home. For an interesting movie touching on this subject, I recommend the film “Brooklyn” about a young woman from Ireland who comes to America in the nineteen thirties. The scene where she applies for entry having crossed the Atlantic is interesting. There were and are requirements. Despite the words on the Statue of Liberty, many were turned away.
We have been swamped by opinions about the immigration crisis on America’s southern border. The current administration has insisted on “zero-tolerance” for the crime of illegal entry. That has resulted in the separation, in some cases, of children from their parents. Sometimes. Despite most of the media coverage, this problem goes way back before this President. In fact, many of the most heartbreaking photographs that we have seen are from 2014 and farther back. Yet, previously there was little to no outcry about the children and where they were being “held.” As usual, this is non-stop politics on steroids.
The problem has always been far more complicated than some people suggest. I say that because the border personnel report that many times they cannot tell if the adults with children are actually their parents. Beyond that, five out of six children are not accompanied by any adult. Again, the entire problem began years ago. The media often invite people to think it just began with the current administration but children in separated facilities has been the policy of many years.
This issue is sometimes presented as quite simple. But crossing the border, integrated with immigrants are sometimes MS-13 criminals, drug cartel leaders and soldiers, sex trade entrepreneurs and other violent criminals. In other words, unless one advocates completely open borders, as some people do…the borders are a nightmare. We need to pray for wisdom and the development of sensible solutions.
Turning to the spiritual dimension….am I as a Christian comfortable with the idea of open borders as the outworking of my love for Christ? I most certainly am not. Am I lacking compassion because I do not support open borders? I do not lack compassion. But, as a Christian, I have responsibilities to the innocent and to common sense.
Inevitably the question reduces to “What would Jesus do?” It is too bold to suggest I know what Jesus would do. But I have some thoughts as to what Jesus might say in this discussion. As a preface, let me suggest that Jesus was and is often badly misunderstood. It is popular to see Jesus as the always-gentle and gracious and tolerant Son of God carrying lambs on his shoulders and holding hands with children. But Jesus was often very tough and direct. Jesus made a whip of cords to chase the merchants out of the Temple. Jesus was not afraid to call evil men “white washed tombs!” Jesus was first and foremost the ultimate agent of justice. Jesus was keenly aware when he was with us in the flesh that the world is filled with evil. Jesus was a realist. Jesus knows the reality of wickedness and horror on Earth. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he defended his disciples and insisted they be unharmed. Why? Because we have a responsibility to protect the innocent.
Jesus was the embodiment of compassion but also of Justice. He very definitely did not take offense because some people were excluded from Israel. The plight of the leper in the ancient world is well documented. They were excluded and so were their children. Would Jesus have argued that they should simply be admitted without any concern as to the danger in doing so? Certainly not. Jesus was a realist.
Jesus also hated hypocrisy and lies. The current outcry about a need for a policy change regarding immigrants is real…and important. These policies must be improved. But those who are most vocal seem to say nothing of the problems on the border with rape and crime and murder. I think, as a Christian, that we must protect the innocent and demand that the law be enforced.
And one last thought. I find it typically ironic and nauseating that almost all of the progressives demanding open borders and crying the loudest about children being harmed…are themselves supporters of abortion. We hear many of them take on the mantel of theologian when they obviously are unfamiliar with the main themes of Scripture. It is boorish to hear ungodly people quote the Word of God. Some go as far as to call anyone opposing their views to be equivalent to Nazis! But they continue to support crushing the skulls of the unborn…tearing off their limbs and/or burning off their skin. And this is the true holocaust that dwarfs anything happening at the borders. But not a word of protest.
As a Christian, I’d like the needy immigrant, adult or child, to be welcomed into America once they are properly vetted and in compliance with the law. And as a Christian, I would like the shameless media to repent of their deception, such as putting the President on the cover of Time with a small child with the caption “Welcome to America.” The cover suggests that the little girl was separated from her parents. When her father pointed out that was untrue, and she was happily with her family, Time did not apologize. When the media used photos of children in cages and unpleasant holding areas, they neglected to say that some of the photos were from 2010.
Yes, Jesus would care very much about needy immigrants. And Jesus would expect us to protect our own citizens even as we help the needy towards better lives. So would you and I. Jesus was compassionate. But Jesus was a compassionate realist. And he might say that some of the most vocal screamers about separated children are white washed tombs. Why? Because they cry out about 2000 children separated from parents … but they refuse to care about 2000 children everyday killed in the womb.
Sad. Pray for our nation.
Blessings! Pastor Alberta