I have not written a post in some time. The last few blog posts I have penned have all dealt with the issues of politics and public education policy in my home state. Several years have passed since I last publicly addressed matters of faith. However, my pen cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak out through my ability to craft words into thought-provoking grammatical structures. The humanitarian immigration crisis currently happening at the United States border demands my response. The rhetoric I am seeing and hearing from fellow evangelicals, clergy and non-clergy alike, demands my response. Scripture and my faith demands my response. Now that my three lovely children are in bed and my wife is drifting to sleep while watching Gilmore Girls reruns on Netflix, it is time to write. So I grabbed my favorite mug, brewed a fresh pot of coffee, took my study Bible off the bookshelf, and here I am sitting at my desk ready to write.
If you have taken the time to click on a link from social media to read this blog post I am going to go ahead and assume you are somewhat aware of the situation happening along the southern border of the United States during the early summer of 2018. There is a new zero-tolerance immigration policy that until earlier this week was directing Border Patrol officers to separate children from parents, some as young as several months old. Now I am not going to address the policy and the issues with it here instead, I want to address what I have heard from fellow evangelicals concerning this crisis, both from clergy and non-clergy and both in person and via social media. Here is just a small smattering of what I have heard:
- They are just following the law.
- If you want to come here and not be detained do it legally.
- There is no right solution.
- It is just too complicated.
I have witnessed everything from misinformed to completely racist and mocking tweets and Facebook posts. I have watched in horror as one-time fellow pastors turned politicians have ignored the situation and posted tweets that offend the Imago Dei. Tonight as I cleaned the kitchen and brewed my coffee to fuel this post I could not get the Old Testament character of Ruth out of my mind.
Ruth’s story is told in a short book carrying her name and is found stuck between Judges and 1 Samuel. Ruth was not an Israelite. She was not from the country of God’s chosen yet she winds up being the great-grandmother of possibly the greatest King of Israel – King David. Furthermore, she is one of two women listed in the genealogical record of Christ. She was a Moabite. She was a foreigner. She was an immigrant. She had married an Israelite that had left his home country during a famine. Her husband died and instead of staying in her homeland, she went with her former mother-in-law to the country of her deceased husband to live. She was not detained for being an outsider. She was not questioned as to why she was trying to come to God’s great country. She was not separated from her mother-in-law. She was allowed to seek refuge there as a grieving widow. She was even allowed to work in the fields and gather grain. This immigrant was treated with dignity and respect, even to the point of the workers of the field being told to leave some for her to gather. There is a very touching scene between her and the owner of the field where she is harvesting grain.
Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:10-12
She admits she is a foreigner and it is rare to find such good treatment in a new place. Boaz’s response shows what our response should be in this crisis. He is humble, he is gracious, and he is kind.
Now we are not going to be able to look at refugee’s and immigrants and say we have heard their specific story and what they have done, and quite possibly they are not coming here after honoring God in their previous nation. But we can still pattern our response much like Boaz’s if we seek to have his kind heart. Maybe instead of saying it is complicated or you should just do it legally, we could look at immigrants and say, “you have left family and your native land to come here to find hope and a life that is not possible there, how can we help?”
Boaz helps Ruth. A little while after his interaction quoted above he turns to the other workers and tells them to let her glean from the sheaves and to not reprimand her for it, and also just go ahead and pull some out from the bundles for her to get and do not reprimand her for that either. When God had given all of the law to Moses there was a provision that Boaz is referencing here.:
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 24:19.
There is a similar instruction found in Leviticus 19:9-10. The Israelites were commanded to be prepared for those non-natives, or immigrants even, traveling through and to provide for them.
We are a nation of immigrants. If you trace any of our generations far enough you will find a point where your ancestors did not live in what is now the United States. We are, and will always be a nation of immigrants. Maybe we need to be more willing to help those sojourners and immigrants and contribute to their ability to carve out a new life in a new land. Instead of mocking, we need to offer support. Instead of handcuffs and separation, we need to provide food and drink. Instead of saying not welcome, we need to embrace their diversity and culture.
One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible is Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, Revelation 7:9
A great multitude from every nation, all tribes, all peoples, all language worshipping together. If we believe the Bible and have put our faith and hope in the veracity of its words, then this is the future for which we are longing. If we believe we are going to spend eternity side by side with those of different backgrounds and cultures perhaps we should be more open and accepting of them here in our current home. If we are going to share forever with them, we should start that here and now today and openly share our land with the homeless and tempest-tossed that arrive on our borders.