“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31)
These are the words of Jesus, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt to avoid violence and death. Jesus, who was arrested for breaking the law and crucified on a cross by an Empire intent on killing political dissidents, is a good example that the laws of a government often contradict the laws of God.
When Jesus was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” he told the parable of the Good Samaritan, instructing his audience to show mercy and “Go and do likewise.” Upon reading and reflecting upon the life of Jesus, there’s little doubt to how he would treat immigrants.
Jesus would say radical things like “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27) and “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).
Do you hear? This message of unequivocal love and sacrifice was the centrality of Christ’s message and is a command repeated virtually verbatim by Paul when he declares “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5:14).
Many of Christianity’s tenets are inherently illogical and absurd — a person being fully man and fully God; a person rising from the dead; miracles (like being swallowed alive by a fish); angels and supernatural beings; an afterlife … If Christians can accept these things as true, the basic themes of the gospel: love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, and hope can hardly be questioned. Yet many Christians are failing to abide by these fundamental truths, refusing to follow God’s greatest command. For people claiming the faith of Christ, showing love and compassion to immigrants, no matter their status, is a requirement of following Jesus — there is no alternative.
Our stance towards immigrants directly reflects our stance towards God. But like the earliest followers of Jesus, being Christ-like often means opposing man-made authorities and even contradicting Christendom itself. Because when immigrants are the victims of xenophobia, racism, and political rhetoric, it’s up to followers of Jesus to be their most fervent defenders and to love them as Jesus did and does.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:33-34). These are the strong words of a God who loves everyone and desperately wants us to understand that everyone is made in God’s own divine image. The way we treat immigrants and refugees is the way we treat Jesus himself.
There may be political, economic, and personal reasons for an unwillingness to love immigrants, but according to Jesus, there are no spiritual ones.
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt. 25:38-40).
God help us.