We’ve had a lively debate around our Conference related to the Alabama Immigration Law. My objections to the law are based upon biblical convictions and are shared by many of our leaders, particularly those who have an evangelical passion to reach the world in the name of Jesus. One of these leaders is John Bailey, who leads missions at our Asbury UMC in Madison. I thought John had a thoughtful meditation on the theme of our “illegal” status before God, a status that has been rectified by the cross of Jesus.
The recent debates over Alabama’s immigration law have revealed divisions among Christians. Many people who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior have taken up ranks on both sides of the issue. It is always disconcerting to see how, once again, the followers of Jesus are divided over an issue that touches the core of what Jesus calls us to be. I often wonder if we are fully aware of what it really means to be a Christian. I have a dear friend who likes to ask this question about everything we face as Christ followers. His question is this, “what does the Good News of Jesus Christ have to say to us in this issue?” Looking at all things through the lens of the Gospel gives us the perspective we need to have as Christians in whatever we face. It is worth asking what the Gospel has to tell us as we consider the debate over Alabama’s immigration law.
It will be good for us to remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about making good people better, strong people stronger or nice people nicer. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a self improvement program. The Gospel is about Jesus coming to live among us to set the captive free, make the weak strong, raise the dead to life and to proclaim the lawbreaker innocent. (See Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18-19) The Gospel tells us that we were all enemies of God, far removed from God’s love and mercy. God, in the person of Jesus Christ came that we may move from enemy to child and even friend of God. What is more, Jesus sends His followers into the world in the same way He was sent. (See John 17:18) This is a foundational truth that I am afraid that many who profess the name of Jesus have either forgotten or have never fully understood. This foundation is critical, because if the foundation is not right, everything that is built upon it will be wrong.
One of the arguments being put forth by those who advocate for Alabama’s immigration law is that the people the law is focused on are illegal. This fact is not up for debate, these people are indeed here illegally. What the Christian must ask, then, is how he or she will view these lawbreakers? Do we look at them as ones who are impacting our way of life and should be excluded? Or, do we look at them in the same way that God views us, as lawbreakers who will be treated with mercy, compassion and Grace? I submit that your understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may impact how you view these lawbreakers in our midst. If you understand the Gospel to be about making good people better, you may view the illegal with scorn and contempt and be pleased to see them sent home. If you understand the Gospel to be about God reaching out to a lost, rebellious and lawbreaking people with overwhelming mercy and compassion, you may grieve to learn that fellow lawbreakers are being treated poorly at the hands of those who profess Christ. I encourage all who profess the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord, to seriously consider your understanding and experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and look at this law through the Gospel lens.
John is a certified evangelist and provisional Deacon in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is appointed to serve as Director of Missions at Asbury UMC in Madison.