Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's a Follower of Jesus to Do?

Build a wall or provide a pathway to citizenship? Dreamers or a threat?  Welcome or deport? Register or provide sanctuary?
Over the past year our nation has been engaged in a vigorous debate over the appropriate response to people living among us from other countries, some of whom do not have proper documentation.  There are voices on both ends of the spectrum; most Americans lie someplace along the continuum.  What is a follower of Jesus to do?  I can tell you what we did. 

Through InterFaith Works’ Center for New Americans, my family was matched with a recently arrived refugee family from Syria.  There are four in the family: a mother and father, two daughters (4 and 10 years of age) and two sons (6 and 12 years of age).  Using Google Translate on our phones we are able to have intelligible conversations.  Debbie has taken the mother to some secondhand stores so that she might know where to find affordable items.  We have helped them buy some household goods, and have been able to collect some useful things from others.  On several occasions people in churches have taken the initiative to approach us and offer things unsolicited.  In the spirit of holiday giving, we bought gifts for the children.  When all the other kids in their classes were getting gifts, it was heartbreaking to think of these delightful children receiving nothing.

We invited them to our house for a meal.  In retrospect, we should have done more research into the meaning of the word halal.  In any case, the children seemed delighted to be in our home.

Does this resolve the immigration debate in America?  No, not really.  Is it faithful to the teaching of Jesus?  I think so.  “I was a stranger and you invited me in [Matt. 25:35].”  Regardless of where we stand on the immigration debate, all followers of Jesus are responsible to invite in and care for the strangers among us.  On that issue, for a follower of Jesus, there should be no debate.

Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister-American Baptist Churches of New York State