Monthly Archives: April 2006

Following Jesus and responding to illegal immigrants


Two weeks ago, Jen and I joined the march from St. Paul’s Cathedral to the State Capitol to raise awareness for humane immigration reform (that’s where we took these pictures).

Currently, this is a very controversial subject and I wonder how Christians should respond.

I feel personally connected to this issue in some ways since I worked with many illegal immigrants at various restaurants growing up. I met mostly good natured, hard working people- many of whom were sending their paycheck abroad to feed their families back home.

I also have traveled to Central America three times (where many of these immigrants came from) and spent two months in West Africa. It is interesting to know and love people on both sides of the U.S. border. I feel like getting to know people and experiencing (in some small way) the life that they have come from has affected the way in which I respond to them as immigrants.

The reason I mention this is that I feel like when a lot of people discuss this issue, they talk as if we are dealing with cattle. Maybe illegal immigrants don’t have “rights” as Americans now, but make no mistake, we are talking about the beloved people of God (and that view of these people is what should govern our response). It doesn’t matter where they are from, what they have done, or what they might do. As a follower of Jesus, I think that we have a Biblical mandate to treat these people as beloved and act in a way that is best for them.

Leviticus 19:34 should give us some good direction (as quoted by Sojourners): “When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Does this verse demonstrate a principle that we should follow in our response to the illegal immigrants residing among us?

In my opinion, Sojourners summarizes it well: lets choose “compassion over criminalization”. To take action on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, click here.

The Orthodox Church on nonviolence

I was sent this link by e-mail in regards to this non-violence discussion and it articulates the Orthodox Church’s view. Good stuff. Here is an excerpt:

Thus total pacifism is not only possible, it is the sign of greatest perfection, the perfection of the Kingdom of God. According to the Orthodox understanding, however, pacifism can never be a social or political philosophy for this world; although once again, a non-violent means to an end is always to be preferred in every case to a violent means.

Here’s the link if you want to read more:

http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=55&SID=3

Response to "Violence and nonviolence" comments

Great discussion! You guys left me with some really good stuff to ponder. There were definitely some valid points made about how this actually plays out (then again, Jesus also gave us a pretty good example). I think it’s important to note that I’ve never actually been in a situation that demanded the possibility of the use of lethal violence (so my opinion is only worth so much). And I also have great respect for those like the late theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who attempted to take out Hitler with a bomb in order to save the lives of millions). I am also not trying to create a one size fits all formula.

here’s the point I’m trying to make (don’t miss my point by getting caught up in the bold statements that I use to illustrate the point): I feel like we need a paradigm shift around this issue, especially those of us in the Evangelical Church. It doesn’t seem like we are striving to find alternatives to violence. It feels like we try to push the limit on how much violence we can get away with. If we really lived like we believe that only love wins (and violence loses), it would have radical and powerful implications in our personal lives, in the way we run our cities, how we treat/reform criminals, and how we interact with other nations.

Thanks for reading guys, this blogging thing is a blast!

Violence or nonviolence

Last night I was a part of an intense conversation about the use of lethal violence and when I would feel justified in using it. I shared how profound it was to me that when Peter cut off the servant’s ear in the garden of Gethsemene, Jesus healed his enemy’s ear. What an example how how we should respond to violence. He even said that if he wanted, thousands of angels would be at his disposal to defend him. But he was a different kind of King from a different kind of Kingdom. If Jesus wanted, he could have conquered our sin and death through force and through violence. I think that he came to show us that evil (in every form) loses. In the words of Dave Johnson: “Life wins, love wins, and God wins.” That is how the kingdom of heaven works.

So that brings up thoughts on the death penalty for me, thoughts on how I would react to someone who broke into my house, thoughts on how we respond to nations and people that threaten our country.

First of all, I need to say that I don’t think that I have a “right” to anything as a Christian. My allegiance is to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven alone. Derek Webb (www.derekwebb.com) puts it this way:

My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a king & a kingdom

As Americans, we love to talk about our rights. We have a Bill of Rights and we make sure that everyone knows it. We are entitled to say what we want, to go to church where we want, own property, defend ourselves with a gun, and the list goes on. But as a Christian, I believe that I need to lay down those earthly “rights” in order to live by a higher standard. How many times did Paul say that we are “slaves” to Christ? SLAVES? The thing I know about slaves is that they don’t have rights and they don’t get what they want. My whole perspective changes when I see myself as a slave to the life and teachings of Jesus:

Love your enemy…
Love your neighbor as yourself….
Sell everything you have and give it to the poor…

And the list goes on- ways in which we should give up what we want, give up our rights, and give up the things that we think we are entitled to.

Do you hear about “rights” or “entitlement” or anything of the sort in the words of Jesus? It seems to me that its all about putting others before yourself, in everything. The pursuit of selflessness.

If you have some arguments on how we have rights as Christians, let me know. Otherwise I’ll move on…

So if I don’t have any right to property, protection, or even human life as a Christian- how should I respond to someone who threatens me or the ones I love, in any given context. If I truly believe that life wins, love wins, and God wins- then how should I react? I believe that violently taking someone’s life is exercising evil. Even if its defensive, especially if its preemptive.

Some say would say that if there was a room full of people and someone walked in with a gun and started shooting everyone, then it would be okay to kill that shooter. But would Jesus condone that? Not a chance in my mind. Look at how he reacted to the Romans. They were responsible for the death of at least thousands of Jews through violent oppression and terrorism. If Jesus would have just called upon his angels and overthrown the Roman Empire, he would have saved countless lives (especially Jewish lives if we consider the destruction of Jerusalem shortly after his death). But that’s not how God works.

So I’m thinking that violence, especially lethal violence is never justified. You can’t fight fire with fire. Fighting evil with evil is doesn’t work. The Kingdom of God overcomes evil with love every single time. I think I’ll post more on this issue. I think there is a lot to say about God’s view towards criminals (murderers and rapists) like, I think he actually loves them. And if God loves them, I should love them, and if I kill them for my own benefit,

am I loving my enemy?