NPR is reporting that border agents are illegally turning away asylum seekers. It is worth considering how many of those border agents consider themselves to be Christians. Those that do should fear for their souls.
Welcoming the stranger is at the foundation of the Christian tradition. The first book of the Bible is Genesis. The second is Exodus. One means “origins.” The other means “mass emigration.” The story begins with a man leaving his home country in search of a new life for himself and his descendants. It involves those descendants being an oppressed ethnic minority ghettoed off in the land of Egypt, finally being delivered from bondage, and being commanded to treat the immigrant as if they were a native-born member of the tribe.
The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate sojourner. God becomes incarnate, takes on human flesh, leaves heaven and comes to earth, where he is despised and rejected, executed by the authorities, and makes his way to the very depths of Hell itself. The Resurrection is not only the triumph of life over death; it is God’s vindication of the stranger and the alien.
We send those who seek our help back into danger and death, like lambs to the slaughter. In so doing, we slaughter the Lamb of God all over again.
Thus in the Christian understanding of the final Judgment, we shall not be asked, “Did you tithe?” “Did you go to church on Sundays?” “Did you cuss or watch pornography?” “Were you gay?” We shall be judged on how we treated those who were rejected, the ones others ignored and turned away.
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
“How is this possible?” they will ask. And Jesus will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
This is not a metaphor. Jesus did not say that treating others well was like treating him well. This is not about having good manners or being a good citizen. Membership in the Christian faith requires a radical affirmation of the ones others reject. It especially requires not being one of those doing the rejecting. For in rejecting those who need our help, we are rejecting Jesus Christ himself. We are like those who crucified him. We send those who seek our help back into danger and death, like lambs to the slaughter. In so doing, we slaughter the Lamb of God all over again.
Christian love requires protecting others, including those within one’s own nation. So yes, border security can be a godly profession, but only if it is done in a godly way. Turning away those fleeing systemic violence, abuse, and rape is the quintessence of ungodliness.
‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
Christians believe the ultimate sin is apostasy. One must not reject Christ, even if it costs one one’s life. Even if it costs one the lives of one’s children. But apostasy can also happen when the actions we take, or fail to take, cost others their lives or the lives of their children. When we reject the refugee, we do them harm, and in so doing we do harm to Jesus Christ, for he is in the reject and the refugee.
The people flocking to our Southern borders are not a threat. They are in need! And when we reply to them, “There is no room for you here,” we may find, as we stand before the judgment seat of God, the same words said back to us. “There is no room for you here either.”