According to an Associated Press report, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a mother of two in Phoenix, was arrested nearly a decade ago for using a false ID to get a job as a janitor at an amusement park. What would you do if you needed to work in order to provide food for yourself and your family?
She pleaded guilty to a felony charge, but the Obama administration declined to deport her. Last week she showed up at the ICE building in Phoenix for a scheduled check-in with immigration officers and was swiftly deported to Mexico separating her and her family. No questions asked. No mercy. This is one example of many more to come.
I do not know how many undocumented persons will be impacted and separated from their families, but what I do know is that the gospel of Jesus saves us from the partisan politics, the fears and insecurities, the prejudices, and whatever else might cause us to ignore, look the other way, or even rationalize the unmerciful actions of the Trump administration that is criminalizing all undocumented persons.
The gospel of Jesus compels us to stand with and stand for the undocumented. If we say that we believe in the love of Jesus that we see portrayed in the Gospels, where Jesus is constantly breaking down walls and barriers inviting everyone to the table of fellowship, then we must take sides. We must side with the disenfranchised, criminalized, undocumented persons living among us. They are our sisters and brothers. Being Christian doesn’t give us a choice.
In Christian theology and practice there are many grey areas and multiple shades of grey to debate. But when it comes to bringing good news to the poor, setting the captives free, restoring sight to the blind, liberating the oppressed, and announcing the upside-down kingdom of God there can be no debate (Luke 4:18-19). When it comes to loving our neighbors Jesus is crystal clear regarding who our neighbors are and how we are to love them (see Luke 10:25-37).
With regard to the gospel of mercy and restorative (social) justice, the gospel of compassion and grace, the gospel of welcome and inclusion so beautifully and powerfully embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus we Christians will embody it by standing with and for our undocumented sisters and brothers or we won’t. We will either be the salt of the earth and the light of the world or we won’t. And if we won’t then we are not very Christian.
In being a voice for the disenfranchised and undocumented targeted by our current administration will there be some cost? Will justice oriented Christians find themselves at odds with public opinion, political powers, and a rather large section of Christendom? Well, was Jesus crucified?
The late Clarence Jordan, founder of an interracial farm community in Americus, Ga., even before the civil rights movement, is a wonderful example of the kind of fearlessness and faith needed in our time. He and his community felt the prejudice, hate, and wrath of the powers that be. Their farm was boycotted and their people shot at. Their roadside market was destroyed by dynamite. Their very lives were in danger daily. And yet Jordan was known for his laughter, his clever wit, and his love for life. When the local and state powers boycotted their farm, this little community relied on friends throughout the country to get their pecans to market. Their slogan was: “Help us get the nuts out of Georgia.”
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. And a church faithful to her Lord cannot be silent.