Today, the first of May, there were protest all over the country against Arizona’s new immigration law. One protestor was carrying a sign “Who Would Jesus Deport?” What if it said “Who Would Jesus Marry?” (I mean by this not get married to but whose marriage would he preside over.) Can you image the outrage?
The Left welcome Christian principles and arguments when they support, or they think they can be used to support, the things they agree with like homosexuality, immigration, the environment, and care of the poor. They don’t seem to have any problem at all suggesting that governments should encode such principles into law.
At a blog I recently stumbled across and really like, the author, Wes Ellis, posted a prayer for humility regarding immigrants. I liked it, and have no problem praying it in agreement with the him. However, it implied to me that he thought Christian charity on this point should be the rule of law, so I posted a comment:
Amen, by which I literally mean, I agree and beseech God with you. I do, however, believe there is a distinction between the Church Universal and national policy.
As Christians, the true Jews, the command in Leviticus 19:34 is also commanded of us: “The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Likewise Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
This is how the Church should act, and pray.
That does not mean God’s left hand, the State, does not have an obligation to protect its citizens or enforce the laws, nor does it mean Biblical commands given to God’s people should be encoded into immigration policy.
To which he replied: “I don’t think God’s left hand would work in opposition to his right…”
This is loaded with all kinds of implications for Church/State relations, most of which the Left would condemn if used to support a conservative viewpoint. It almost sounds like he supports a theocracy, like Israel was when God gave them the command in Leviticus. Besides, nothing I wrote even implied that I thought God works at cross-purposes with Himself.
I think that we should be Christ to immigrants, and we should call on our government to create just policies. But those just policies have to take into account justice for the citizen. Forget popular sovereignty; only God is sovereign, and He established the US government (whether they know it or not) to govern US citizens.
Concerning the roles of the State in the Two Kingdoms, Luther argues that government is “First, established [by God] to provide order and maintain the peace. Second, it must wield the sword with justice and according to the statues and laws of the nation.” No government has ever been the source for God’s redemptive, social transformative work. That’s not its function. That is the task of His Church.
In an interview in 2004, N. T. Wright addressed this kind of thinking:
“I’ve sometimes hypothesized, what if someone were to say to Paul: ‘Well, according to your principle of love, all God’s people should share their possessions with one another. Therefore, some of us in the church think that we should help this process on the way by going into our neighbors’ houses and helping ourselves to whatever we fancy, thus liberating these objects from the spurious idea of possession.’ You can imagine someone might say, ‘Well, some of us believe in theft and others don’t, so let’s not judge one another.'”
As long as we have legitimate laws, the State has to enforce them. As a Christian I will minister to a resident alien, but I will not hire him or help him get here. I simply do not see how my ministering to anyone obligates me to support a particular governmental policy. Are we to just open the borders then?
Besides which, Chrisian principles of love and hospitality apply to all Christians in all places at all times. So, should Christians in Japan, say, try to make the government relax its strict immigration policy? Are all governments everywhere supposed to encode our beliefs into law? Even in Iran, say? Did Jesus intend His commands to His Church to be imposed on all people through the State? Sure sounds like exactly what the Left is always accusing the Right of wanting.
When I protested his characterization of my comments, Mr Ellis clarified: “If God is in solidarity with the poor and with immigrants, and the government passes a law that is unjust toward immigrants, then God would be ‘cross-purposing’ himself.”
First, God does not stand with the poor and with immigrants, per se, in and of themselves. He makes it sound as if just by virtue of stepping aross a border, even if done so illegally, even if done so with the intent to commit crimes, that somehow God stands with and for them, collectively, as a group, automatically.
Nor does it follow that because God clearly does have a heart for the outcast, the poor, the sick, the broken, the marginalized and oppressed that anytime a government passes a law that may not be equitable and just He is either working at cross-purposes with Himself or He is not really sovereign over the State.
It’s a flawed conclusion from an equally flawed premise.