Surprised by Hope: God’s Justice and Illegal Immigration, Part 3

Notice how we tend to think about political issues.

* Some of us see political issues as entirely separate from Christianity. Church has nothing to do with illegal immigrants. The Bible simply doesn’t address such things.

* Others see the “spiritual” part, but that’s all. Hence, we should certainly invite immigrants, legal or illegal, to church and share Jesus with them, but the question of whether they should be here in the first place is purely political and quite separate from spiritual concerns. The Bible is only about salvation, not government.

* Contrary to either of those views, I’m arguing that our Christianity touches and changes everything about us. In fact, as politics is often all about nationalism and selfishness, Christianity especially touches and changes politics. Indeed, Christianity condemns nationalism and selfishness, and wrapping those up in the name of politics does not rescue them from God’s judgment (meaning by “nationalism” allowing our concern and love to stop at a man-made border).

And the third viewpoint, which should seem obvious once it’s been said out loud, is barely discernible among American Christians. In fact, it only shows up in those areas where the political parties want it to.

The Republicans love for us to talk about homosexual marriage and abortion, as those issues push Christians to support the Republican Party.

The Democrats love for us to talk about care for the poor, welfare, and concern for the needy as these are bread-and-butter issues for the Democratic Party — provided these issues are dealt with by the government.

But neither party is happy when we get away from their talking points, because both parties use these issues to gain or maintain power. Hence, if a Democrat argues that the real solution to poverty is found in Jesus, well, that doesn’t help the party hang on to power, so such a Democrat won’t be speaking at the convention.

Just so, if a Republican were to argue that the only real solution for abortion is Jesus, he won’t be speaking at their convention either. No, both parties want Christians who believe the ills of society are best fixed by government — with the right party in power.

Therefore, as neither party gives a rip about Jesus, neither party is truly an ally of Christianity. Rather, both try to use Christianity for its own ends, and sometimes that helps Christianity — but more often, it co-opts Christianity, tempting us to seek power rather than Jesus.

And so, how does Christianity work in a two-party Democracy? How do we serve God’s justice?

First, we preach the resurrection of Jesus. Notice the political implications. If a First Century Jew heard that Jesus has been resurrected after being tried and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin, what interpretation would he give? Plainly, that God had found the Sanhedrin unjust. Had the Sanhedrin justly condemned Jesus, he would still be in the ground! Just so, God declared Roman rule unjust by reversing their judgment of death for Jesus.

Ultimately, God showed that his political decisions matter much more than man’s. And he declared that Jesus judges man, not the other way around!

(Col 2:15) And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Jesus’s resurrection disarms and even embarrasses earthly political powers. And that tells us what attitude we should have.

Second, we recognize that the powers exist only in this age. They won’t be a part of the eternal age. They’ll burn.

(1 Cor 15:24) Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

Therefore, there is no place where the earthly powers have ultimate say. Jesus has all authority, which leaves very little for the government. To quote a teenager I know, “Jesus rules!” And, therefore, no one else does.

Hence, when we come to issue that affects the poor and the alien, such as illegal immigration, the answer, whatever it may be, is found in Jesus.

Third, we turn to the prophets of old as an example of how a Spirit-empowered people confront the government —

(Isa 10:1-2) Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

(Psa 94:20) Can a corrupt throne be allied with you [God] — one that brings on misery by its decrees?

One task of the prophets was to speak God’s judgment on the actions of the king. When David sinned with Bathsheba, it was a prophet who walked into the throne room and charged him with sin. When Saul disobeyed, it was a prophet who announced God’s judgment.

Manifestly, we don’t have Nathan’s or Samuel’s level of inspiration, and so we must be very, very cautious in claiming to speak for God. In fact, some of the biggest gaffes in recent evangelical history have come from men who presumed to speak for God, declaring 9/11 God’s judgment on this country or AIDS as God’s judgment on homosexuals. We are pretty lousy at reading the signs of the times!

But we surely can learn to see sin as sin, even in our preferred political party or candidate. It is, I think, the church’s job to declare sin sin — without regard to the political consequences. Indeed, we’ll never have any credibility while we only criticize the other party.

And as Wright points out in Surprised by Hope, our pronouncements will carry little weight when our churches give little evidence of love for our neighbors. It’s only after we’ve earned credibility by serving a hurting world in the name of Jesus that we have the right to call sin sin.

It’s not enough that we’ve been to seminary or won debates. No one will listen to us until we’ve thrown ourselves into helping the hurting — until Matthew 25 becomes reality and we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and invite the alien in.

When we’ve walked as Jesus walked, we can pause once in a while and talk as Jesus talked. You see, our declarations must parallel those of Jesus and the prophets, and their primary concern was how the king’s decrees affected the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens. And we can’t claim to speak for the weak and vulnerable of society until we’ve proven that we care enough to do something for them ourselves.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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One Response to Surprised by Hope: God’s Justice and Illegal Immigration, Part 3

  1. Your last sentence is very important. Personal involvement in the lives of people in need cannot be minimized. It's good to support ministries that affect people, but it's even better to be involved ourselves.

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