How evangelicals can follow the way of the cross into immigration reform.
In the 1960s, the evangelical community stood on the sidelines as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for justice. In the twenty-first century, evangelicals must refuse to repeat history by standing committed to contextualizing the moral imperative behind immigration reform. As thousands of children cross the southern United States border, the lack of action on behalf of our elected officials exposes a willingness to sacrifice children on the altar of political expediency. For that reason, people of faith — I’m speaking especially to my fellow Christ followers — must provide a reconciliatory and prophetic prescription for these pathetic circumstances. For evangelical Christians like me, our faith is universally recognized by a simple symbol: a cross. The cross is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically we stand connected to God, his kingdom, eternal truth, and glory. Horizontally, to our left and right, we stand connected to family, culture, society, and community. It is the cross that prompts us to our lift our hands toward heaven and stretch our arms outward toward our fellow man. It is the cross that enables us to see the image of God in citizen and immigrant. It is the cross that compels us to declare that a human being cannot be illegal. It is the cross that drives us to reconcile the rule of law — Romans 13 — with treating the immigrant — Leviticus 19 — as one of our own. It is the cross that enables us to repudiate cultural and political myopia while simultaneously recognizing the image of God, the IMAGO DEI, in every human being, including the unaccompanied children at the border. Correspondingly, we recognize that sending unaccompanied children to the U.S.-Mexico border to illegally cross over without documents places these children in dangerous, life-threatening situations as they’re exposed to narco-traffickers, sexual exploiters, and those engaged in human slavery. Other dangers include hunger, starvation, thirst, abuse, violence, and numerous threats to their lives. The best “firewall” against gang activities, drug abuse, and violence resides in a healthy family environment — a home filled with the love of Christ with a family committed to education, led by loving mothers and fathers. Yet, while we call upon parents in Central America to keep their children at home in a Christ-filled and healthy family environment, as followers of Jesus of Nazareth we carry the biblical imperative to care and serve vulnerable unaccompanied children who crossed the border with love and compassion. We call upon all followers of Jesus to demonstrate the spirit of the Good Samaritan, and to do unto these children what we would have others do unto us and our children. To that respect, cursing and yelling at little children, as demonstrated in recent protests runs counter to the teachings of Jesus, does not reflect a pursuit of his kingdom at the border, and could only be characterized as morally reprehensible and shameful. We must share the gospel by demonstrating Jesus’ love for the least of these — even these without documents — protecting them from harm and abuse while simultaneously offering both spiritual and physical healing. Moreover, because we believe that Christians stand measured not by the variable of our rhetorical eloquence, but by our constant loving actions, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and Confraternidad Evangélica Latina (CONELA), which serve over 500,000 churches globally, launched a messaging and mobilization campaign to address this crisis: For His Children. Through this endeavor, we strive to accomplish the following: To share the saving, loving, and redemptive gospel of Jesus Christ with every unaccompanied child. To protect every unaccompanied child from the threat of human trafficking, abuse, exploitation, and extreme poverty. To cooperate with state and federal officials, collaborating with them as we have opportunity to serve unaccompanied minors at the border. To facilitate healing to each border-crossing unaccompanied child by providing ministry, counseling, and Christ-filled, Bible-based support. To call upon Central American parents to protect their children by keeping them safe at home by providing healthy home environments and seeking solutions for the future of their children through education, spiritual development, and oversight. To demonstrate a “Good Samaritan” model as the Jesus way of responding to the thousands of unaccompanied children who have risked their lives to come to our borders in hopes of a better life — while discouraging all forms of unfair treatment, nativism, xenophobia, and intolerance toward innocent children and teens here at home. We will pray, and provide shoes, clothes, shelter, beds, and above all, compassion. Driven by Matthew 25 and a commitment to reconcile conviction with compassion, followers of Christ must lead the charge for immigration reform that protects our values, borders, and, more importantly, the image of God in every human being. By responding to the border crisis with conviction and compassion, we advance the agenda not of the donkey or elephant, but of the Lamb. by Samuel Rodriguez