Can Our Country Care for the Caravan?
Written on November 4, 2018 by Bob Russell
My wife is writing a book about hospitality. I think she’s qualified. Over the past fifty years, Judy has entertained over 1000 preachers and missionaries. And, I have on several occasions, without advance warning, brought homeless and hurting people to our house and we’ve kept them in our home overnight. She wasn’t thrilled about that, but she quickly made provision. Big, planned parties and small impromptu get-togethers have occurred often in our home. The Bible instructs us to, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” My wife has obeyed that command often over the years.
But there are two things I’ve never attempted to impose on her concerning hospitality. First, I’ve never brought home more people than we could accommodate. I’ve never suggested that thirty people could stay overnight. We don’t have enough beds and bathrooms to make that possible. While the Bible commands us to practice hospitality, there is a limit to how many we can accommodate.
Secondly, I’ve never brought someone home whom I thought would be a threat to our family. I have been questioned on a couple of occasions, but it’s not practicing hospitality to bring home a stranger who could harm my two children in the middle of the night. My first responsibility is to protect my own family.
The same is true with a nation. The Old Testament commanded the Jewish people to be hospitable toward foreigners. “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens because you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Jesus instructed us to feed the hungry and minister to the needy because, “The same as you do it to the least of these, you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
One of the reasons God has blessed America is that we have traditionally been a nation that welcomes immigrants. The inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But how is a benevolent nation to respond to thousands of immigrants coming in a caravan from Central America demanding instant admission into the United States when there are already as many as twenty million illegals in the country? Many of those in the caravan are in desperate circumstances and want asylum from the abuse of their national leaders. Many are bringing their children hoping for a fresh start in the United States. On the other hand, there may be some criminals and perhaps terrorists among them who desire to sneak into our country with the intent of inflicting harm.
The first responsibility of government leaders is to protect their own citizens. They have to ask, “Who is in the caravan? Are they genuinely seeking asylum or looking to do harm? Are they willing to work and contribute or are they looking for a free handout and hoping to exploit the welfare system? Are they bringing diseases that pose a threat to our citizens?”
We point with pride to our history of welcoming immigrants in the past but seldom mention that some who made the lengthy sea voyage to America were turned back at Ellis Island because they had tuberculosis or other life-threatening, infectious diseases. It was sad to refuse them entry, but the welfare of the citizens of the country took precedence.
The second obligation of national leaders is to enforce the law. The Bible puts a high value on justice. There is a detailed legal process to enter and become citizens of this country. It is unfair to those who patiently go through the time-consuming, proper legal procedure to allow others to “cut in line” or disregard those laws altogether.
Moses commanded the Israelites to be consistent with the foreigner in their land when it came to administering the law. “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born” (Leviticus 24:22). There was not to be a double standard of justice.
Just as we expect guests in our home to respect and abide by our house rules, our nation’s leaders need to ensure those immigrating to our country agree to abide by our nation’s laws and respect our values. It’s not in the best interest of the U.S. to welcome immigrants who are predetermined to live according to a separate set of laws, disrespect our values, refuse to learn our language or even harm our children. The result of a totally open border policy is increased division, anger, and violence.
The third obligation of national leaders is to extend grace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.” Any caring person is opposed to deporting all who are here illegally. Compassionate people want to help those who are fleeing persecution and oppression. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 reads, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
I don’t know what the solution to the current immigration crises is. But let’s pray for a compassionate and just solution. Pray that our national leaders have wisdom and courage to do the right thing. Pray that the poor and the hurting can find a home where they can live in peace and that any who intend to do harm may be weeded out. Pray that the Biblical principles established by God for Israel may be the guiding light to bring about a peaceful solution. Pray that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.