Previously: Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)
The Law and the Lions’ Den
Some of the most vehement and passionate arguments against immigrants are directed specifically at those who cross the border and reside in the United States illegally. Those who make these arguments generally insist that they have “nothing against” those who come to the country legally, but that there should be “zero tolerance” for those who do not respect and obey the laws of the country to which they come. Especially among Christians, the refrain “Obey the law!” is given as not just a legal, but a moral, imperative. Christians are commanded in the Bible to obey the authorities of the land.
The book of Daniel (chapters 3 and 6) tells us of some young men who were living in a foreign land, and who refused to obey the law of the land. Instead they obeyed a higher law — God’s law — that was at odds with the law of the land. For this impunity, three of them were thrown into a fiery furnace, and one into a lions’ den. God saved them from death, and ultimately the law of the land was changed. The laws of human governments are fallible, and sometimes it is not only our right, but our duty to disobey laws that conflict with a higher law. So what is the “higher law” in the case of illegal immigration?
Some immigrants illegally cross the border for nefarious or criminal reasons. But the vast majority of immigrants who leave behind their homes and heritage to illegally cross the border do so out of desperation: To protect their families and children from violence and death, or because there is no work, no money, and no food with which to feed their families. Why not apply for legal residency? According to the US Department of State website the current projected wait-time for a Mexican immigrant who applies to receive a visa today, August 13th 2010, is 18 years. EIGHTEEN YEARS! By contrast, the wait-time for someone from India, The Dominican Republic, or China is approximately five years.
If violence, hunger, or extreme poverty threaten the livelihood of my family, and “legal” immigration is, for all practical intents and purposes, impossible…yes, I will break the law of the land. I will give my allegiance to the higher law that tells me to care for my family. And I will pray for the people of my new land that they might see the cruelty of a law that forces me to choose between “obeying the law” and feeding my children. But I will not wait eighteen years for them to change it. Like Daniel, I will walk into the Lion’s Den and trust that God is on my side.
Pastoral ministry in a border community requires us to see the Godly countenance of Daniel in the face of the illegal immigrant, and if we cannot be the King who changes the law, we must at least be like the lions, whose mouths remained closed in the presence of God’s servant.
Next: Amnesty for Adam (Genesis, Exodus, Psalm 103, Matthew-John, & Romans)