By Bob Allen
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention says Jesus would be sympathetic to the plight of undocumented children flocking to the southern U.S. border, because as a child he also lived as an immigrant.
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, preached a sermon Aug. 3 on what the Bible says about immigration. In the message, picked up on the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website, Floyd reminded listeners that according to the second chapter of Matthew, the baby Jesus’ parents took him and fled during the night to Egypt after an angel told Joseph in a dream that Herod was trying to kill him.
Floyd — just back from a visit with faith leaders including SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore to sites along the U.S. border housing immigrant children — repeated a quote that Moore wrote in a blog three years ago.
“Our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called ‘illegal immigrant,’” Moore, at the time a professor and administrator at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in a blog titled “Immigration and the Gospel” dated June 17, 2011. “Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with him in Egypt.”
“Therefore, without any question at all, Jesus Christ is sympathetic with immigrants,” Floyd added. “The immigrant is loved by Jesus Christ. I mean every person on the face of this earth is loved by Jesus Christ. And that’s why Christ died for all of the world.”
Floyd said following Christ should affect every area of life, including one’s views about immigration.
“How we treat other people — all people, all ages of people and all generations of people, regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak — it tells us a great deal about our personal walk and relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.
Floyd said Christians “must extend compassionate action to all people, pointing them to the hope that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ and his saving grace,” and “as we treat the least of these, we had better remember, we are treating Jesus Christ.”
Floyd said that means ministering to the needs of the immigrant when opportunities arise. He said Cross Church has been involved in immigrant transition ministry for about a year, teaching English as a second language with hopes of adding citizenship classes and resources to put immigrants in touch with legal aid.
A moral issue, as well as politlcal
Floyd said regardless of one’s personal views on immigration policy, the immigration crisis taking place at the border is not just a political issue, but also a moral issue.
“I want to remind you again, these are real people, made in the image of God, and people for whom Christ died,” he said.
Floyd urged Christians to “diligently pray” for national leaders confronting the immigration issue.
“We need to humbly call upon the leaders of our country to fix the immigration system in our nation,” he said. “Since we have elected them to lead us, we need to pray for them to come together and agree upon what needs to be done in reforming our immigration system.”
“As we pray for them, we need to remember that these issues are very complex and they don’t have easy answers,” Floyd said. “Yet I believe that we have a God who is able to bring people together and towards a common goal of demonstrating a commitment to both compassion and justice.”
Floyd cited a 2011 SBC resolution calling for, “with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country,” while adding that “this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.”
“You hear periodically the term ‘amnesty,’” Floyd said. “By no means would we believe in absolute amnesty, meaning that we believe everyone who is illegal now becomes legal automatically.”
Floyd said the presence of an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country and the surge of children and young people creating the current humanitarian crisis at the border prove that the nation’s borders are not secure.
“This is a major national security threat to our nation and to our future,” Floyd said. “This is why we must pray for the leaders of our nation, and our leaders need to come together and take care of this issue.”
Floyd said the Christian’s final responsibility for the immigrant is “we need to reach all people, including immigrants, for Jesus Christ.”
“As God is bringing the world to the United States, we have a tremendous opportunity for reaching people for Christ,” Floyd said. “God has brought them here to find him. Therefore we must share him.”
“Our church must be aggressive in reaching all people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only those who look like us and talk like us, but those who are different from us in many ways,” he said.
One way of doing that, he said, is through ministries of adoption and foster care.