BY BISHOP DAVID KENDALL
Last evening, President Obama declared his intention to issue “executive orders” whereby presently undocumented persons in the U.S. may move toward permanent legal status. No doubt this will create a flurry of responses from all side of these complex issues, and will tend to generate far more heat than light. Discussion and debate are to be expected and may play a healthy role in formulating policies that will make sense, deal with a huge and far reaching set of challenges for the undocumented, their families, local communities, and our nation as a whole.
Recently the Free Methodist Church – USA took formal action to join the Immigration Alliance, in anticipation of the president’s actions. The Immigration Alliance is a national effort that equips local churches to provide legal services to under-resourced immigrants. We believe that the church in the U.S. has an important role to play in offering Jesus-like ministry to the many undocumented persons in our communities who need help. A surprising number of them are followers of Jesus and thus our spiritual kinfolk. All of them are dear to God’s heart. We must be guided by who we are in Christ, not by any of the other social, cultural, political or personal feelings, persuasions or allegiances. To that end, please consider the following reflections.
The scriptures tell earnest followers of Jesus, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God …” (1 Peter 2:9).
If we are the new people God makes us (chosen), we will understand that our birth-race, tribe, culture, government can never trump the claims of our rebirth-race — as children and servants of God, members of the new humanity created by grace and pioneered by the embodiment of grace Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. We will delight in the Father’s pleasure to show the world how to be human the Jesus-way, how to find and actualize His way of dealing with the foibles and failures of the all but wrecked story — His-story — that He will surely bring to a very good ending, or new beginning. We will receive blessing and share blessing with all the families on earth.
If we are kingdom people (royal), we will seek first the interests of the King, indeed above all other interests. The King declares His love for all, and especially for the so-called last and least, those for whom few or no one will speak or act. The King commands that we take care of the aliens and sojourners among us, for that is what we are — sojourners seeking a better country — when we are true to His call on our lives.
If we are the body of priests God calls His people to be, in fact, together constituting a priesthood for the sake of the many who do not know our God, the many who need to find some connection to the One who made and loved them and gave himself for them, then nothing will take priority for us than to be in position to sign-the-way to the true homeland of everyone our God claims as His own. No competing interest can deter the priesthood in the fulfillment of their sacred duties.
If we are truly a holy tribe, an out-of-this-world ethnicity living and serving the many other ethnicities and showing them that what they most seek comes not through strategies of self-seeking and striving, but through receiving what God freely and lavishly rains upon us, and then sharing with others, then we will find ways to give of ourselves as a primary means of helping others receive. We will commit to this way of losing ourselves in the pursuit of the others’ good, trusting God to see to their and our ultimate well-being.
For these reasons, we must seeks ways to serve the needy, express Jesus’ compassion and welcome for them, and trust Jesus to work in ways only He can as we follow. Indeed, particularly, in the faces of the strangers in our midst, we will expect to see the Lord Jesus who chooses to be identified among the least of these — the homeless, the hungry, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. We have a compelling opportunity to act for them as Jesus would.
Bishop David Kendall was elected to the office of bishop of the Free Methodist Church in May 2005. He serves as overseer of East Michigan, Gateway, Great Plains, Mid-America, North Central, North Michigan, Ohio, Southern Michigan, Wabash, African Area Annual Conferences; and Coordinator of oversight for the World Ministries Center.
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