Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Freedom For Immigrants

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." (Isaiah 61:1-2)

The immigration issue is a hotly-discussed topic on the national scene these days, and Bible-believers must be very careful to seek the mind of Messiah on this subject as they enter the debate. Many of us are political conservatives, but I must say that His approach is not well-represented by much of conservative punditry. The loudest, most influential voices seem heavy on law and light on grace, and they risk some personal lessons in what God really means when He says:

  • "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 22:21)
  • "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 23:9)
  • "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)
  • "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, Who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
  • "If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever." (Jeremiah 7:5-7)
  • "I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me." (Matthew 25:43)

I'm not trying to write immigration policy in this post, but I am trying to encourage prayerful consideration of God's perspective on the matter.

The famous plaque at the Statue Of Liberty does not read: "Give me your lords and ladies, dukes and duchesses, geniuses and generals, bards and businessmen looking to invest millions in our wonderful free market. Send these, the rich and famous and other desirable people who are as perfect as we are, and we will be a great example to the world."

Rather, reflecting the fact that most of America's immigrants through the centuries came from very distressed backgrounds, these are the memorable words of the plaque: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (Emma Lazarus, 1883)

Are immigrants any different today? Mostly not. So why are some Americans (the vast majority of whom are from immigrant stock) so quick to constrict the free-flow of blessings that must be freely given as He gave?

Some of us can speak from the perspective of Native Americans. My own little Chinook Tribe, for example, was the group that welcomed Lewis and Clark when they reached the end of the trail in the Northwest. Rather than deporting outsiders on one-way canoes into the Pacific, Chief Comcomly (Grandpa!) and the tribe welcomed trade relationships and new European family members. What if they had been immigration hardliners? How then could we live today without Northwest necessities Boeing, Microsoft, Nike, Amazon.com, Costco, T-Mobile, Washington apples and, most importantly, Starbucks?

As we discuss current immigration issues, let us do so with Biblical maturity and Godly character. It is right to follow His commands and other legal principles, but essential to live them out in the ways of the greatest Immigrant:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:3-8)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lessons In Freedom

"On the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants."(Leviticus 25:9-10)

During the past year, as a fifty-year-old American, I have gained new understandings of slavery and freedom. In the eighth year of demanding ministry in Brooklyn, I had wearily prayed for God to give me new insights and experiences of liberty during my jubilee. He has answered in amazing ways, often through trials yet always through unexpected blessings.

I hope you too will be blessed as you read along!

My husband and I are Bible-believing servants of Messiah Jesus, working among 300,000 Russian Jews and other Russian-speakers who immigrated to Brooklyn since the late 1980s. This blog consists of personal reflections. Although I refer to the specific ministry at times, I am writing as a private individual and not in my official capacity with the ministry organization.

My next post begins to detail some lessons in freedom. In the meantime, check out my testimony on the ministry website www.rclc.us to see how a philosophy major political professional from the Pacific Northwest ended up serving Jesus among Soviet immigrants in Brooklyn, New York.