Reflecting Biblically about Immigration through the Lens of the Apostle Paul
I am quickly understanding the positions I take will frequently run counter to most Evangelicals and will almost always run counter to the culture. The latter is to be expected so it is the former that troubles me.
I believe far too many Christians are only “Cultural Christians” and for the many who are truly saved (I always leave ultimate judgments to God) they do not allow the Gospel to shape EVERY aspect of their lives.
Let me speak briefly what that DOES NOT mean. It does not mean that person will not struggle with sin. It does not mean they will always arrive at the correct Biblical position. It does not even necessarily mean they will experience more victory in their lives. Make no mistake about it but the authentic Christian life is hard. Getting to heaven is relatively easy, relatively speaking. Think about the thief on the cross. He gave a “deathbed” confession and we can be assured he will be among the redeemed when we all get to heaven. It is the living out of the Biblical principles, day-by day that is the real rub. It is in the crucible of everyday living that reveals, over time, of the pretender and the real McCoy.
Allowing the Gospel to shape our lives grants the authentic Christian access to supernatural resources to remedy every misstep, to increase in knowledge that leads to wisdom, to grow in grace, ultimately to mature in sanctification. With few exceptions, like the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a ministry that is part the Southern Baptist Convention, do I see anyone postulating Gospel-centric worldview concerning immigration. I see a lot of vitriol and hate and cold-heartedness. I see the tools of Satan being employed but rarely do I witness the wisdom-led counsel that Christ generally and the Apostle Paul specifically displayed.
It is found in a pretty small (measured in volume) book towards the end of the New Testament. Yet, because it finds itself within the Holy Writ it demands our due attention and obedience. I hope you find my analogy logical and worthy of serious consideration. I refer to the book of Philemon. Philemon was a runaway slave. Now, while we are uncomfortable with the very idea of slavery it was the custom of the day while both Jesus Christ and Paul lived (it is revealing they never took one step towards bringing about it eradication. That fact should inform of what our true mission is and support my thesis).
By the way, my thesis is this: Christians should use the complex issue of immigration as a Gospel opportunity to evangelize the lost. Let me be clear: I am in total support to building a wall, making it supremely tough to enter this country, banning people with ties to terrorist group. The usual positions espoused by the Republican Party. Yet, we should do exactly what the Apostle Paul did concerning Philemon. Paul shared the Gospel and ministered to Philemon. Only after ministering to Philemon did Paul instruct Philemon to return home to “his master.”
So to bring it full circle to the issue of immigration I believe Evangelical’s first priority is to be a “good neighbor.” More important than any temporal issue (and I acknowledge they are important. That I will never naively deny.) Yet, the issue of eternity is decisively more important. The Church exists for a lot of reasons but chief among them is to “Evangelize the World.” People do not care how much you know (orthodoxy) until they know how much you care (orthopraxy). Paul “won the right” to be heard. Of course, he had Apostolic authority but I believe my theology is correct when I posit every true believer has access to the same authority the Apostle Paul possessed.
The question of immigration is complex but it needs to be compassionate and practical. What about the children who are here (albeit illegally) because of the actions of some adult? Do we actually believe the Biblical thing to do is summarily deport all the people currently living in the country illegally? Do we really believe that to be the approach Christ would have taken. That is certainly NOT the approach Paul took with Philemon. Slavery was legal during Paul’s time. Philemon was a runaway, yet Paul’s first move was not to call or demand Philemon return to his master. That was certainly Paul’s end game and I believe we can “call” people who are living here to “return” or to legalize their situation once we have spoken into their lives. Spoken into their lives with the Gospel and buffeted with genuine Christian affection. I alway believe God moves mightily when we the people of God live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many of you will skeptically reject my premise out of hand. I readily acknowledge that but I am confident you will do so with arguments based on political ideology, cultural wisdom and to put it bluntly “sinful thinking.” Of course, you will not view your attitude as sinful but I challenge you to provide a Biblical basis for your position.
Again, I fully support securing our borders and tightening down the requirements to enter this country as we move forward. My concern are the people, created in the image of God, currently living in this country. I believe it is ironic many do not appreciate how God has facilitated our accomplishment to fulfilling the Great Commission. We don’t have to always go to distant lands. God is bringing those from the distant land to us. They need to hear the Gospel like Philemon needed to hear the Gospel. Once he was converted by the power of God’s Word Philemon was malleable to “doing the right thing.”
This is not about being a Democratic or a Republican. Nor is it about liberalism or conservativeness. This is about how Evangelicals bring the Gospel to bear. I interacted with someone from Facebook who foolishly attempted to rebuke me because I had the “audacity” to attach my political ideology with my Christian ideology. He actually had no idea of a person living consistent to a worldview. I am so thankful for theological giants like Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. R.C. Sproul and Dr. Francis Schaeffer (and so many others) who has made aware of the need to live consistently to a Christian worldview. Too many professing Christian “compartmentalize” their Christian lives. They espouse all the right doctrines on a Sunday but it rarely, if ever, translates into their day-by-day decisions.
I am loving life and I will stand ready to come alongside any immigrant and I will attempt to “speak into their lives” with the Gospel. I would then trust God for the results. I believe that to be a 100% recipe for success.
I would love to hear from you. Whether you agree or disagree. If you disagree then articulate Biblically where I have missed the mark. I welcome “ironing sharpening iron.” I understand when I enter into the marketplace of ideas I am giving permission to others to make assessment of my logic and reasoning. As long as the conversation does not devolve into ad-hominem attacks we are all good. So bring it. My grandmother taught me, “a religion that can’t take a lick, ain’t worth a lick.”
My next two posts will do with my angst concerning the African-American Evangelical ‘s and Caucasian Evangelical community’s political posture. I feel abandoned by both and I believe both are sources of God’s displeasure. I realize I will offend some and that is one of the reasons I have delayed posting these blogs. I feel convicted so I cannot be a coward and allow others displeasure from expressing what I believe God to be teaching me.
Until next week Happy Father’s Day to all. This will be my first Father’s day without my father but God is still good all the time and all the time God is good.
Keep your hand to the plow!
With much fear and trembling
Ricky Verndale Kyles, M. Ed. Min.