Immigration: Do We Have To Choose Between Love And The Law?

immigration what should do christians do

(The following is an unabridged version of an editorial that appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Please scroll to the bottom for a list of additional resources.)

According to the U.N., the Dallas-Fort Worth area receives more refugees than any other city in the U.S. Immigration is an issue that is not isolated to our borders; it is in our backyard. I, and my faith family, consider it a great privilege to welcome and serve others who we assume have been appropriately vetted by those charged by God to do so. Because of where we live, we have a rare opportunity to model Christ’s love to those new to our land, even as our government wrestles with the rule of law regarding immigration.

The emotionally-charged rhetoric we’ve heard in recent days makes it seem that we must choose between love or law; compassion or security. How can we both “do justice” and “love kindness,” as it says in Micah 6:8? It’s a question that many have posed to the Christian community specifically. If followers of Christ claim to love people as Jesus does, how could we ever turn anyone away from a safe harbor?

But the choice between justice and love is a false choice. To understand why, we need to explore both the role of government and the role of the Church. 1 Peter 2:13-15 makes clear that the role of government is to “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” This makes justice and law a fundamentally good thing and essential for any healthy community. Goodness and justice cannot be defined by the ever-changing values of today, but must come from a right understanding of the never-changing nature of God. Our founders understood this when they ordered our liberty around the goodness of God, declaring “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

God’s word also makes clear that while the government’s role is to protect, the role of the Church is both to remind the government of its duty to be just and model to the world God’s kindness and love. In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands His followers “to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples.” We are not only commanded to love one another, but also to love the sojourner in our land. Leviticus says, “the stranger who resides with you shall be as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself.” This is a clear mandate, and to some, it may seem at odds with the rule of law.

The crux is how we choose to define loving-kindness. Loving-kindness cannot be defined (as it often is) as the approval or celebration of any behavior. Kindness is never at odds with justice. Rather, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love “rejoices with the truth.” This reflects the nature of our God, who is full of both grace and truth; both 100% kind and 100% just. Kindness under the rule of law should never be applied to one group at the expense of another. Applied to today’s context, we cannot choose indiscriminate amnesty because it is “kindest” for immigrants, nor should we close our borders because it seems “kindest” for our citizens.

It is imperative that we understand that God has ordained both government and the Church as divine institutions, each charged with separate tasks to bring order and goodness to all people. Their roles are different, but complementary, and to confuse the two is to invite ruin. It is only through an understanding of and advocacy for each institution’s God-ordained roles that we can achieve both love and justice simultaneously. Achieving this balance is, admittedly, a delicate and difficult task. I urge you to pray for our leaders, even as we hold them accountable.

Scripture gives us examples of how to achieve this balance. The heritage of the Christian faith is steeped in the stories of sojourners, including Abraham, Isaac, and Ruth. However, throughout Scripture, two different words are used to make a distinction between types of sojourners. Ger is used to describe sojourners that enter a land and choose to peacefully adopt social and legal customs of that land. Nekhar is used to describe one who enters a land with the intention of consuming it, rather than contributing to its welfare. This distinction is as important today as it was then. There must be systems put in place to ascertain the intention of those who desire to come here, and to make provision and warm welcome for those who want to enter our land peacefully. This is how we achieve both justice and kindness.

Regarding our new neighbors who are already living lawfully among us, this is our opportunity to put love into action and serve them. We must engage, show compassion, and offer practical assistance to those who are fleeing unimaginable hardship. You can start simply by forming a relationship with just one new person who is new to our Metroplex.

At Watermark Community Church, we’re privileged that more than 70 different nations of origin are represented in our faith community. In our partnership with other ministries in the area, we offer many opportunities to care for refugees, immigrants, and sojourners.

Finally, while I am blessed beyond measure to call this country my homeland, I stand firm in reminding you of this truth: America is not the hope of the world, Jesus Christ is. I invite you all to investigate this claim and to come and see the freedom available to all through His grace.

Todd Wagner is the pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX. Email: pastoraloffice@watermark.org.

Learn: Resources to help you process the topic of immigration

  • Sermon: Todd takes a deep dive into a biblical view of immigration with his 2014 sermon: Immigration and the Christian: The Balance of the Welcome and the Wall

  • Real Truth. Real Quick.: In this short video, we answer the question “What is a Biblical Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis?”

 

  • Blog: Todd discusses immigration, the unaccompanied immigrant children crisis, and shares Lino’s story
  • Blog: External focus – our outreach ministry – offers thoughts on how to help with the Syrian refugee crisis
  • Blog: What To Do If You Are An Illegal Immigrant
  • Blog: Todd discusses Watermark’s position on racial integration
  • Video Clip: Why It’s Important For You To Pay Your Employees A Fair Wage
  • Video Clip: Why You Shouldn’t Hire An Illegal Immigrant
  • Video Clip: Welfare and Dependence
  • Video Clip: What Does Foreigner (or Stranger) Mean In The Bible?
  • Video Clip: Are You More Commited To The Great Comission Or A Great Admission (To Our Land)
  • Video Clip: We Have Got To Be Disciple Makers
  • Video Clip: Introduction To Lino’s Story
  • Video: Lino’s Story

Invest: Learn more about opportunities at Watermark and our partners to care for refugees, immigrants, and sojourners

  • QuestCare Clinic – A Watermark Community Partnership: We provide quality urgent care services to those who do not have the insurance coverage to receive it elsewhere
  • Ends of the Earth: We seek to serve our international friends through various activities including the mentoring of international students and relationship-building with newly arrived refugees – Contact: ocastillo@watermark.org
  • Vikery Kids Club: Each week during the school year, a small, committed team of volunteers shares the love of God with inner-city and refugee children – Contact: vickerykids@watermark.org
  • Love Is: A ministry to reach the refugee community with the love of Christ and help them successfully integrate into the community
  • International Students, Inc.: Sharing Christ’s love with international college students

Engage: We would challenge you to build relationships with just one person that is new to our land.

Use this guide to help you think through the best way to engage and host international friends.

What D.C. Is Talking About and So Should You

A Guest Post By Kirby Wagner

washington dc pro life march for life

Last week I spoke at the National Evangelicals For Life conference, in my message I encouraged everyone to “use their pulpit” to faithfully speak out about the issue of life. I am glad to share with you my daughter’s application of that message here. Be encouraged and equip yourself to able to do as the righteous have always done. (“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Prov 31:8-9)

In addition to this blog post below, we’ve also put together a playlist of resources to help you think through several sanctity of life topics that I hope you find helpful.

Below is Kirby’s Post. I am praying her faithfulness encourages you to equip your self and use your “pulpit” today.

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This past week was the March for Life. While the media paid more attention to it than in years past, it is impossible downplay the importance of the message of the march. It is something you should know about, and certainly something you should care about. While the exact number that gathered to march is hard to gage, the need to be bold in declaring the message is not. Advocating for the rights of all men and women and especially advocating for the rights of those who have not yet had the chance develop vocal chords or use their voice the job of all leaders with compassion.

What is the pro-life movement? 

It is the movement that champions life at every stage of existence. From the embryo to the end, pro-lifers believe that life has inherent dignity and value.

Why should you care?

There are a lot of reasons you should care.

Primarily, because you are alive because your mom chose not to have an abortion. If you were born after 1973, your mother had the legal right to end your life in the womb, and she chose not to.  You should care because though you have surely inconvenienced your mom throughout the course of your existence, the thought of you didn’t move her to prevent the labors and pains you would bring about.

Secondly (or maybe firstly), you should care because God cares. If you are reading this and you do not know God, or even more, if you do not believe in God, don’t ignore what I am going to say. Every human on earth past, every human on earth present, and every embryo currently in utero was made in the Image of God. This means that all people are uniquely created with purpose.

Every person has the potential to reflect the character of God and be His ambassador of love and truth to the world. This means that whether you believe in God or not, you were created with qualities and characteristics that mirror His own. Though we are all created with touches of His character and a God-ordained purpose, we do not all live in it. (See also the men and women who are wicked, unhappy, wealthy and depressed, purposeless, lost, etc.) However, your response to God, or lack thereof, does not undermine the fact that you have undeniable rights and unarguable value.

Thirdly, because though many of our fellow humans disagree, there is overwhelming philosophical and scientific evidence that human life begins at conception. This, my friends, means that human life begins the moment his sperm meets her egg.

Here is a great way to understand the science and have the conversation. Not to convince your friends, but rather to give them something to think about. The following is borrowed from Scott Klusendorf, a leading apologist for life. Using the acronym SLED, you can be equipped to show that there is nothing that suggests that a life inside the womb, at any stage, has less value than a life outside. This is not a conclusive argument, but it’s a really good start.

S: Size

Is a short person less valuable than a tall person? Why then would the size of the human in the womb determine its value? True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more valuable than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.

L: Level of Development

Is an infant less valuable than a 2-year-old? How about a 4-year-old who can’t read versus a 40-year-old? True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I.  But again, why is this relevant?  Four-year-old girls are less developed than 14-year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings?

E: Environment

Is someone from South Dakota less valuable than someone from Texas? Is someone living in the Congan jungle less valuable than someone living in Beverly Hills? Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already valuable human beings, merely changing their location can’t make them so.

D: Degree of Dependence 

Is an infant, totally dependent on its parents’ care and provision, less valuable than a 12-year-old who can feed and clothe themselves? Is someone with a broken ankle and reliant on crutches less valuable than an Olympic track athlete? If self-sustaining viability bestows human value, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. In short, although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal (and valuable) because they all have the same human nature.

The answer to those questions is “no”. Therefore, one can believe that a single cell, complete with the entire genetic code to create a baby, then a boy, then a grown man, is indeed a life, worthy of living and worthy of protection.

For a quick review of SLED from the Real Truth Real Quick team, check out RTRQ to review and sharpen your own ability to speak winsomely about the topic.

For a more in-depth argument, see:

http://prolifetraining.com/resources/five-bad-ways/

How can you get in the game?

First, Christian, you can be just that. A follower-of-Christ. Know first that you are fully loved by the One who gives you worth. Then, in response to the fullness of love that you are shown, love others unapologetically. Remember this order though.

Your own ability to love others, especially those different from you, especially those who think you’re ridiculous, will run out, leaving you feeling ashamed and disappointed that you could not muster enough to supernaturally love them. Don’t project this shame or disappointment on God either. He looks down on you with love still, with compassion, not mad that you in your finite state couldn’t produce His supernatural love. He looks down and mourns the fact that you did not allow the Spirit in you to lead and guide you, therefore forsaking the joy and peace and love that would have been yours as a result. The Scriptures do not joke when they say:

  • “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8-9)
  • “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing” (Proverbs 10:28)
  • “How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)
  • “Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7)
  • Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” – John 10:10

There is a theme to observe here –  joy, blessing, refreshment, peace, and life follow a person who is in right relationship with God.

It is said that politics is downstream of culture, meaning that when the culture changes, so will our politics. So don’t fear that you can’t argue before the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, rejoice, because I doubt any of us could argue sufficiently. Yet, love unapologetically. Serve your coworkers, your neighbors and your family, be bold in conversations, put rocks in people’s shoe. Be quick to ask for forgiveness; humble yourself often. Know God, be honest with God, know the promises of His word and the depths of His love. The transformation in your life will start here. And when the Church begins to stand out like the Church was intended to, the world will respond. The church is the hope of the world. One cannot ignore the power of the Body’s love and ministry. The people will see your love and want to know your God. Politics will change as culture will change, because the people will change. 

Second, you can engage culture at every turn. Be conversant, be winsome, be first and foremost humble and loving. Do not shy away from co-workers or friends who disagree with you. These are the very people you should pray for and initiate with. We are on the right side of this argument. Though the mainstream media and culture quite proudly disagrees, if something is true, then no amount of scrutiny or screaming will prove it otherwise.  Here is a full message from my Dad that will serve y0u well on this topic titled,  Aborting Your Silence and Dealing With the Shame of Abortion.

Third, be generous with your time and money. Invest in groups that are actively advocating for life. Share your story. Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. Ask the Lord what He wants you to do. To read the story of others or share your own: https://standforlife.org/

Fourth, pray. For men and women in this nation and around the world, that there would be a revival in their hearts. For the church, that there would be revival in their pews. Remember that God wants to know you, and He wants you to know Him. He seeks the transformation of your heart, the transformation of “his” heart, “her” heart and even “their” heart. God does not need us to pass legislation to end abortion, though that is absolutely a worthy goal. He does aim to use the Church to reach humanity. He cares infinitely about every single life, and rest assured that He WILL do something about it one day.

In the meantime, let’s get busy. Let’s have the conversation.

Is abortion part of your story? We love you and would love to know you and care for you. Check out Someone Cares (for women) or Forgotten Fathers (for men).

Considering abortion? We love you and would love to know you and care for you. Please reach out to me at  at kwagner@watermark.org .

– Kirby