The bible is a story of displaced and marginalized people groups. Their stories are everywhere. Jesus, a refugee, has always identified with the least of these and it is evident that God’s heart and attention is on the sojourner. Our historical and contemporary practice of dehumanization and cognitive dissonance has led America to create policies that make it difficult for the sojourner to dwell among us. As followers of Christ there are certain mandates that we don’t have the option to opt out of. There are certain issues that will always be OUR cause. Christ distinctly highlights throughout the Gospels that the greatest commandment is the call to love and the scriptures provides context into what that means for the stranger among us.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” - Leviticus 19:33
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” - Exodus 23:9
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” - Matthew 25:40
“‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.” - Deuteronomy 27:19
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” - Hebrews 13:2
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” - Leviticus 25:35
“The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” - Psalm 146:9
So, with understanding that this is a major issue on the heart of God, we must ask ourselves…
What does it look like to love the foreigner in our American context? What is God requiring of us?
America has an outdated and broken immigration system that has placed millions of families at stake who are seeking refuge in this country. Depending on your socio-economic status, and a long list of other factors, your journey to documentation is increasingly difficult and almost impossible. Everyday the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is on the move using scare tactics to split families apart. In Columbus alone, there are countless stories of families destroyed. Last school year there were reports of parents waiting in front of elementary schools to pick up their children only to be met there by ICE. In February I had to comfort a sobbing 14 year old student whose stepfather had been deported. In the back hall way of her high school questions swarmed her mind: “How will my mother provide for us alone?” ... “Will my mother be next?” … “Who will take care of my baby brothers?” When she should be focusing on so many other things as a 10th grader, this is what consumes her on a daily basis. Can you imagine the trauma? There is a silent cry being echoed all across the country and God is magnifying it in this season.
“How can we say we love our neighbor, but we don’t do anything about the systems that are breaking them?” Sandra Van Opstal
Tomorrow, President Donald Trump is expected to announce that he will end protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children - but with a six-month delay for congress to act.
These individuals came to America as children, they grew up here, went to our schools, our colleges, they are members in our churches, a part of our workforce. Many have families of their own now, and they are vital to our communities. (In part 2 of this blog I’ve provided information on DACA and it’s impact if it were to be terminated).
Most of us have the privilege to ignore the fact that these things are happening, because it doesn’t apply to us directly, but love says I choose to involve myself. Love says I choose to sacrifice my time and resources. Love says I choose to get educated. I choose to fight for you. I choose to love my neighbor.
Part 2: Who are the Dreamers and What is DACA?
In 2001 a bipartisan bill was introduced into congress called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act (DREAM), supporting a population of almost 1.2 million. The policy was designed to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who had come into the U.S. before turning 16. However, the bill has yet to successfully pass through congress, the children the bill sought to protect are known as the DREAMers. In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was introduced into law to provide them with opportunities to thrive. Recipients are protected from deportation (up to 2 years), are provided with temporary work permits, and social security numbers.
» Young people (born on or after June 16, 1981) who came to the U.S. before the age of 16.
» Don’t have lawful immigration status.
» Have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
» Are at least 15 years old
» Currently in school, a graduate of high school or GED recipient, or honorably discharged military veteran.
» You must also have a clean criminal record and pass a background check.
Tuesdays decision will place up to 800,000 DREAMers at risk for deportation and dismisses an option for over 1 million potential DREAMers to seek safety under DACA.
In today’s context loving your neighbor will be to openly support and defend DREAMers and their families, not just because of their social, cultural and economic contributions to our nation (which is true), but because they are humans worthy of love and dignity. Love will look like condemning immigration policies, such as Texas’ State Bill 4 that strips away the rights for cities to protect undocumented immigrants in their city. Loving the sojourner looks like becoming proximate and advocating for them when others come to oppress, not because it’s trendy this month, but because this is on the heart of God.
I implore you to be on the lookout for these policies. Start conversing with those in your respective communities. Research. Protest. Pray. Stand up to the systems that seek to break the people that God loves. Hold your elected officials accountable. They represent you and are using your tax dollars to push an agenda, make sure it represents the heart of God.
Lastly, protecting and advocating for the sojourner is a biblical issue and biblical mandate. Our heavenly citizenship will always come before our allegiance to any nation or person. We individually and corporately will be judged on how we treated the least of these.
The Justice Conference: Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Loving the Sojourner