This is part three in a three-part series on border/immigration issues written for my summer internship work with Pasos De Fe. For more information, please read the introduction.
Previously: Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)
Previously: The Law and the Lions’ Den (Daniel 3 & 6)
Amnesty for Adam
Definitions of Amnesty:
- The act of an authority by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.
- Forgetfulness; cessation of remembrance of wrong; oblivion.
- An act of the sovereign power granting oblivion, or a general pardon, for a past offense, as to subjects concerned in an insurrection.
There was once a man named Adam, who lived in a beautiful garden with Eve, his wife. He really wanted to please God, and obey the one simple law that God had given. But he broke that law, and God sent him away from the garden. Adam broke a lot of laws after that, and God started working on a new plan.
Once, when there was no work and no food, Adam immigrated to wealthier country called Egypt and worked in construction, doing odd jobs and such, unskilled labor. A lot of Adam’s people came too, so many that the Egyptians got worried that their infrastructure couldn’t handle all of Adam’s people. They passed some laws that made it harder to work. Some Egyptians treated Adam pretty badly, too. Eventually, God rescued Adam and took him to a new land, a good land, a land just for him. God told Adam never to forget the time when he was an immigrant in Egypt, and to treat immigrants better in his land. He gave Adam ten laws this time. And even though Adam still wanted very much to please God, he broke every single one of those ten laws, too. God kicked his new plan into high gear.
Adam did well in his new land, and became pretty wealthy. In fact, he made his own laws now. Lots of them. He took the ten laws God gave him, and added more to them, and even though he couldn’t keep any of them, he figured that the more laws he had the closer to God he would be. Adam took great pride in his laws.
It was right around that time when the immigrant showed up.
His name was Jesus (pronounced “Hey-soos”). He was from really far away. He had really dark-skin, maybe because of where he was from, or maybe because he didn’t bathe much. He looked like he hadn’t had a haircut in a long time. But Adam remembered (sort of) what God said about immigrants, and he gave Jesus a job doing some carpentry work around town. Adam checked in on the immigrant from time to time. He broke a lot of the laws Adam had made, but when Adam confronted him, Jesus always seemed to talk his way out of it. He usually reminded Adam about God’s laws, the ones Adam was breaking. Things got worse. Jesus seemed to attract law-breakers too, wherever he went. Adam was afraid things might get out of hand, so he quietly arranged to have Jesus…removed. God would understand. Adam was just protecting the land that God had blessed him with. Adam really wanted to please God. In order to have Jesus removed, Adam broke a few more of God’s laws.
With Jesus out of the picture, Adam was free again to make as many laws as he wanted, to enjoy his land again. But somehow he couldn’t. He remembered what God said about immigrants. He remembered the time when he had dragged an illegal in front of Jesus, and demanded that she be punished for breaking the law. Jesus said ok, but only as long as the punishment came from someone who had never broken the law. Adam had been tempted to punish her anyhow. Adam remembered a story Jesus used to tell about an illegal who had been granted amnesty by the judge, but who on his way home saw another illegal and turned him in. When the judge found out, he revoked his amnesty and had him deported. Adam remembered his time in Egypt. He wondered if God was at all like the judge. Adam knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would always be a law-breaker.
Some days later, Adam found an unopened letter at the bottom of a stack of papers that he had somehow missed, or forgotten about. It was dated several months ago. The return address was listed as “Heaven,” and the sender, “God.” Adam tore open the letter and began to read:
I think I’ve figured out a way to get you back on track, to go all the way back to the way things used to be back in the garden days, maybe even better! I’m sending my son to visit you and help you figure it all out. Please listen carefully to what he says, and give him the welcome I know you would give me if I were there myself. His name is Jesus.
See you soon,
Adam’s stomach twisted painfully inside of him as he slowly put two and two together. His first instinct was to find a place to hide, but then he remembered how that didn’t work so well the last time he tried it. Instead, he sank to the floor and began to cry. He thought about having himself…removed. It should have been me, he thought. It should have been me.
Adam was so caught up in his sorrow that he didn’t see the dark shadow creeping across the entrance to his house, across the floor and up the wall behind him. For a moment, the room went cold and time itself seemed to hang in the air. And then Adam looked up, and the shadow was gone, and standing in the doorway was Jesus. Adam rubbed his eyes a few times, looked at Jesus and started to speak, but couldn’t seem to find his words. This went on for some time.
And then Jesus began to speak:
The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
And then Jesus reached deep within the folds of his clothes, and pulled out a card, bending over to place it gently in Adam’s lap. He smiled. The card was neatly folded in half, green, with black print. Inscribed across the front of the card were these words:
For all God’s Children:
Go and do likewise.
Some years later, a man by the name of Paul asked the obvious question: If we grant everyone amnesty, won’t that just encourage more people to break the law? He answered his own question in a letter to some people in Rome who probably were taking advantage of their amnesty. And some people undoubtedly will take advantage of grace, mercy, forgiveness, amnesty. But I, for one sure am glad that God didn’t stop short at that argument and decide to call the whole Jesus thing off. And what a hypocrite would I be, sitting here in this wonderful, wealthy land in which I just happened to be born, which God has given to me, and which I, a law-breaker, did not earn…what kind of hypocrite would I be to deny that same God-given gift to a fellow law-breaker?
Pastoral ministry in a border community requires us to live and preach not only the law, but also the gospel of Christ to all of Adam’s children: A radical grace and forgiveness — an amnesty — that is not limited to the spiritual realms, but permeates our laws, our policies, our institutions, and our daily interactions with our neighbors on both sides of the border. And if we cannot grant amnesty to our brothers and sisters here on earth, we ought not to expect amnesty from our God when we stand before the heavenly throne on judgment day.
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