Posts Tagged ‘welcoming the stranger’

The Pastor of the church we attended on Sunday shared a story from the church’s preschool. Last week a four year old attended school one day and was absent the next. The reason was because immigration officers showed up to deport the mother whose papers were evidently not in order. The father is doing graduate work at the university. As the agents arrived they addressed the four year old and asked, “Which parent do you want to go with, your mommy or your daddy?” The child answered, “I want to stay with my mommy and I want to stay with my daddy.” They ended up placing the child with the mother. The next day the father came to the preschool and tearfully shared that his child would no longer be in school.

This is the third child this has happened to in this one preschool in the past year. It raises urgent moral and theological questions for all Christians.

The Pastor lifted up the thorny issues: On the one hand we must have reasonable laws to regulate immigration and our borders. On the other hand we are a huge country with vast resources and we have the capability to do more than we are. What to do?

But more important than those is the crystal clarity presented in the scripture text of the morning, the parable from Matthew 25, that reminds us that the sharpest evaluation of life will be according to what we did “for the least of these.” Just who are the least of these is not left to the imagination: those who are thirsty, hungry, naked, sick, strangers, and imprisoned. These are the most vulnerable and sidelined in our society. When we reach to them we are reaching to the center of the holy itself. When we don’t, we don’t.

The Pastor challenged us to hold this real tension between law and compassion. There has to be a coming together of the two in some redemptive way. In the end, before all eternity, our moral fiber is not evaluated nearly as much by how we well we kept ourselves safe through the harsh enforcement of the laws of the moment, but rather by the virtues of love, mercy, compassion, kindness, and yes, welcoming the stranger.

That is why Christians of many stripes mobilized at the border to protest the immorality of separating children and parents who were sent across the country to different detention centers.

One of the most troubling history lessons shared by the Pastor was the American legacy of separating parents and children in families of color: Native American Indians, African slaves, Japanese during WW II. It is always people of color. And it is today.

None of this is acceptable and no Christian should tuck in their children at night with love and safety without calling to mind the plight of the most vulnerable, those who are not tucked in with love and safety. We must commit to halting the abuse of children and families who are the most powerless within our borders. They are the strangers of Matthew 25. Will we welcome them and how?

Lord, when did we see you?