Immigration Legislation: A new year in which to think biblically!
Jan 26, 2010 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
Several weeks ago many of us had the hope that the new year portended the passage of new immigration legislation in Washington. An immigration bill had been in introduced in the House of Representatives in December, and this month another was to be brought forward in the Senate. The groundwork for constructive debate, in other words, was being laid.
The situation does not look quite as encouraging now. I read a report last week that said that, with the problems related to getting a national health care bill through Congress, the immigration issue was going to be pushed back, perhaps even eliminated from this year’s legislative agenda. Members in Congress were wondering about the political capital that would need to be spent to push for immigration reform. Since this is an election year, and those in Congress worry about their job security, the willingness of those who might otherwise have stepped forward to support changes could very well diminish. We will have to wait and see what unfolds, although our prayer is that Congressional leaders will have the courage to do what is right to transform the status and circumstances of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.
In this time of “wait and see,” what are those believers who desire reform to do? One important thing, of course, is to pray. Another is to get involved in local initiatives and service opportunities that point toward change. Still another piece, and this is the purpose of this blog, is to dig deeper into our Christian faith for direction and encouragement.
The Bible must take a central role in these reflections, if Christians are to deal with this issue very self-consciously as Christians, who claim to have the word of God in the Bible. But, what can the Bible contribute? Is it enough to simply quote a few verses? I believe not.
In the early entries of this blog, it was emphasized that the discussion should begin with the truth of all humans being created in the image of God. The Old Testament offers many accounts of those who migrate (we talked about Abraham, the father of the faith, in another entry). It also contains quite a bit of legislation that deals with those who came to Israel from the outside.
There is much to glean from Old Testament Law on this important topic. Yet, one might protest: That law was for a people thousands of years ago, for a particular culture and time not out own; besides, as Christians we do not live in a theocracy, and, anyway, are we not free from the Law on this side of the cross and resurrection!?! There is a host of theological and historical issues that lie behind these statements, which are beyond our purview, but let me make one key observation, which will transition us into our discussion of the Law.
Read Deuteronomy 4:5-8. This passage tells us that the laws of Israel were not just for that society; they also were designed to point the surrounding nations to the wisdom and righteousness of Israel and its God. It is not that other peoples would need to imitate or replicate Israel’s laws, but they could perceive the value of what they offered; their worth went beyond the borders of Israel. That is why the Old Testament Law is still relevant, even today. The moral fabric and goals that underlie them endure and can teach us much about what a healthy, person-honoring, and God-pleasing legislation might contain.
This informed biblical perspective might be the important and unique contribution that Christians could make to the national debate: a moral compass grounded in God’s Word. Over the next months this blog will explore the Old Testament for this precious input. There is much to learn. To quote the prophet Isaiah (although out of context!):
To the Law and to the testimony! (Isaiah 8:20)