Your support is helping expand Progressive Christianity. We are one of the largest sources for progressive theological perspectives, as well as our thousands of resources. It is hard to overstate their value – every time you donate it expands our ability to do all those essential offerings even better. DONATE NOW!

Would Jesus Have an Immigration Policy?

Does Jesus care more about dividing people through the securitization of national borders, or uniting them all as children of God, and therefore brothers and sisters, under the virtue of compassion as depicted in the Golden Rule?

Anyone who knows Jesus and his teachings and practices knows the answer to this question, and yet many have this obvious answer convoluted in their minds because they have divided loyalties between country and religious faith. Nationalism is insidious in the USA, and it has led to the formation in people’s minds and hearts of “American Christianity” and an “American Jesus” that ironically have little semblance to the actual Jesus and the religious faith he epitomized into word and action.

Jesus was not a nationalist. His loyalty was to God, and God alone. This is why he said you cannot serve two masters. He recognized that it is so easy to get divided loyalties, and then become hypocritical by trying to support them all. But he also knew that this was not possible; there would always be conflicts of interests between the various loyalties. He called out those who tried to put national interests above God’s values; especially the Pharisees and Saducees.

But he didn’t stop with disposing of national loyalties. He even made clear that his commitment was to God over his own biological family, as when his mother and siblings interrupted his preaching and he told them and his audience that his true family are those who live by the values of God.

How easy it is to disregard such passages when our own loyalties are divided, and we don’t want to be called out on them. Our fears for the safety of our families and the security of our nation have become our loyalties of choice. We have made them more important than our religious loyalties. Of course, we do not wish to admit this; and so many have been complicit with the making of a religious faith that is virtually indistinguishable from our nationalistic fervor and patriotism. We have fused the ideas of God’s will and manifest destiny, and assumed that God is always on our side — neatly ignoring that it is we who are supposed to be on God’s side.

Oddly enough, we have shaped Jesus into our own nationalistic image rather than recalling that both he and we were created in the image of God. Jesus, himself, did not succumb (at least not for long) to this mistake. When he met a foreign woman at a well, he revealed he was not without influence from his racist culture in referring to her as a dog. Yet, her dignity and worth was revealed to him almost immediately and he affirmed her as was in accordance with God’s ways rather than his culture’s ways.

In another instance, having just traveled through “enemy” Samaritan territory and having been thrown out by them, he did not allow the animosities, fears, and hatred of his own people, or his own negative experience, distract him from God’s principle of seeing their inherent worth. Instead, he constructed a parable in which a Samaritan was the spiritual and moral champion of the story — thus emphasizing that it is not one’s nationality, religion, ethnicity, or even status as friend or foe that matters, but rather one’s ability to have compassion upon all peoples and to advocate, care for, and provide the basic needs of water, food, shelter, and medical care for all people; including one’s enemies.

From his testimony of words and practices, we see that Jesus would not consider anyone to be “illegal” nor would he impose any form of immigration laws to those in need. Any who claim to follow him and his example have to take this seriously.

Today, millions of refugees are in need of safety from war zones, and Jesus would not take time to argue the ethical intricacies of actually assisting them. Compassion dictates we treat others as we’d want to be treated. This is the Golden Rule; perhaps the only absolute he told us to follow.

We are all one world, and all persons are our brothers and sisters and neighbors in Christ’s view. We are to be devoted to this inclusive theology of Christ, and not national loyalties that set up borders and policies of division. Jesus’ encounters with foreigners such as Samaritans, Syro-Phonetians, Cyrenians and others indicate that we are all siblings created by the same God. We wouldn’t set up or legitimize immigration policies for our siblings. But according to Jesus’ inclusive view, this is precisely what we are doing.

Instead, we should be providing sanctuary for these refugees and immigrants who are fleeing persecution. Whether in our nation, churches, or our homes, we are to show loving-kindness, respect, and care for the well-being of all of our siblings. Isn’t this what we would want others to do for us if the circumstances were reversed? Honestly, isn’t this what Jesus would have us do?

— Rev. Bret S. Myers, 3/21/2017

Review & Commentary