Jesus was a Migrant
In my lectionary reflection posted on Tuesday I took up the question that led Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The parable served to define who was the neighbor. In that reflection I brought up the topic of migration and immigration. Since one of the issues driving the 2016 Presidential election along with the recent #Brexit vote is immigration. I thought I might revisit it. As I noted in my lectionary reflection, I'm reading the book Public Faith in Action by Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz (Brazos, 2016).
Europe and the Middle East are dealing with major migration issues, largely due to refugees that have been forced from their homes due to the violence that has been visited on places like Iraq and Syria due to the nihilistic vision of ISIS. Many are Christian and other religious minorities, but many are Muslim. Volf and McAnnally-Linz note that in 2014 nearly 60 million people from across the globe lived as refugees. So how should we respond? What is the "Christian" response? Political answers are complicated -- and there is need to consider cultural and economic issues when determining how to respond. That said, we're not allowed to turn a blind eye to the needs of our neighbor.
Volf and McAnnally-Linz offer up this theologically driven point:
Jesus was a migrant. When he was a child, his family fled Judea for Egypt as refugees from a government campaign of mall murder (Matt. 2:13-18). Later in life, as a Judean-born Galilean, Jesus wandered between Galilee, Syria, Samaria, and Judea. What would faithfulness to this migrant messiah look like in today's world of massive migrations of people across much firmer borders than those in place when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Egypt? Whatever else it might entail, surely it will involve welcoming those who are far from home. Jesus himself says, explaining the entrance of the righteous into the eschatalogical kingdom, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . . Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:35, 40). Faithfulness to Christ requires welcoming those who find themselves without a home, without resources, without friends in a strange land. [Volf & McAnnally-Linz, pp. 125-126].
To welcome the stranger, especially the refugee (and they should be at the top of the list when it comes to immigration), does not mean that we should have completely open borders or that persons seeking to come into the country shouldn't be vetted. No one is suggesting otherwise, but maybe we need to be open to larger numbers of persons seeking to come to our land. After all, we did contribute to the instability that exists in Iraq and from there Syria and elsewhere. But thinking about this issue as a Christian who is a follower of Jesus, what would he say about the current situation? Would he close the borders to refugees? Should we turn away those who face displacement and death? As I read the biblical story, I don't think that God would have us shut the door on those in need? If not, then how should we respond to those who speak of immigrants and refugees harshly, especially those running for public office? Do their views represent the better angels of our nation?