The Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City has a large banner posted in front of it proclaiming for all the world to see, “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome.” This raises the question, a question many pastors have already asked and answered, What Would Jesus Do about immigration.
The Sentinel does not presume to speak for Jesus. Instead, we will ask what Jim–an honest, humble, truth-seeking Christian at the Second Presbyterian Church–would do about immigration.
The first thing Jim does is to make the obvious distinction between “immigration” and “illegal immigration.” The purposeful confusing of the two he knows to be a way of scoring political points at the expense of honesty. Jim reminds himself, “Thou shalt not bear false witnesses,” and asks his pastor to clarify the banner.
If the banner refers only to legal immigrants, Jim asks his pastor what Christian church in America does not welcome immigrants. What distinguished Christianity from its beginning, Jim elaborates, is its transcendence of tribalism and its universal embrace. This every Christian knows.
Are we not telling the world, Jim asks, that we at the Second Prez are more sensitive than other Christians, more welcoming? “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled,” he gently reminds his pastor, “and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
If the pastor actually means “illegal immigrants,” Jim asks his pastor why he is openly encouraging the breaking of a legitimate and necessary law. Should we not heed the words of Paul, Jim suggests, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.”
As to refugees, Jim continues, if here legally of course they are welcome. Again, he asks, are we not virtue-signaling here, telling other Christians we are morally superior? Might we not be offending others by suggesting that they, unlike us, are bigots and haters?
And if the refugees are not Christian, should we not heed Jesus’s request, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Jim asks, “Does not our mission to share the good word include Muslims?”
When the pastor expresses his displeasure about President Trump’s extreme vetting of certain travelers, Jim stifles a laugh. He reminds his pastor that when the Son of Man comes in his glory the vetting will be extreme indeed.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” Jim quotes Paul, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Jim observes that “eternal fire” strikes him as a more extreme fate than, say, being stuck temporarily in Yemen.
As to the use of the Holy Family as an icon for illegal immigration, Jim reminds his pastor that Joseph was not moving to a foreign land. He was returning home to register for the census.
Jim’s suggestions are good. The pastor is a wise man. He takes down the banner.