"We believe the scriptures are God's revelation to humankind (complete, inspired, inerrant, and infallible); the supreme and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right; and therefore, possessing of authority for the total well-being of humankind."
The above, or a similar statement, is often the first article in an evangelical church or organization's statement of beliefs. It is the foundation on which all other articles and declarations of faith are built. There is much packed into this statement of belief, but for those of us who identify ourselves as 'evangelicals,' it simply communicates that the Bible has authority in and over our lives.
However, what is affirmed in the mind should also be borne out in action. If the above statement is truly a core belief, as many Christians across our country proclaim, it should consistently motivate our behaviors. What we believe should directly lead to action. James drives this point home when he challenges us to action: "Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves" (James 1:22). True belief and action are inseparable, yet too often there is a gap between proclamation and application. Those outside the Church look on and correctly identify this as hypocrisy.
We believe this same tragic gap exists in the overall Christian response to the immigrant and the immigration system in the United States.
The Old Testament, through its declaration of God's heart for immigrants, laws concerning the treatment and inclusion of immigrants, and the description of Israel's history and identity as immigrants themselves, is clearly "pro-immigrant" in its instruction and example. Immigrants, along with widows, orphans, and the poor, were identified as vulnerable in Hebrew society and were often highlighted as being of special concern to God.
It is in Jesus, though, that we find the fullest expression of God's image, and consequently, the truest paradigm for us to follow. In Jesus, we find the fullness of God embodied in a human being (Col. 2:9). And when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:
'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
The two, it appears, are inseparable.
When we consider our current immigration system, we find the insistence that the law must take priority over all else very troubling. In no way are we condoning the disregard or disrespect of our laws or the authorities who enforce them. But when laws are unjust and unreasonable, and contribute to a broken system that marginalizes and exploits human beings, we must readily advocate for the implementation of just, reasonable, and humane laws -- laws that stand in line with a holistic biblical perspective.
As followers of Christ, it is our responsibility to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of scripture -- both Old and New Testaments -- and recognize that the proper application of our beliefs is a constant challenge. In regards to the immigrant and our broken immigration system, we must act. If our core belief truly is that scripture possesses the authority for the total well-being of all humankind, we must take action in love for our neighbor, the immigrant, just as we would for ourselves. For it is in our love for our neighbor that we show our love for God.
Britt Fuller is an Intercultural Studies graduate from Moody Theological Seminary. He is passionate about seeing evangelical churches embrace the immigrants in their community and use their voice to help achieve structural change. Read more at his blog.