Jesus Said Love Your Neighbor. Well…?

One of the missionaries our church supports is smack dab in the middle of the immigration tragedy. He sent the following letter to his supporters. It’s the most insightful perspective I’ve read on the situation yet. I’d encourage you to take his words to heart as you reflect on the situation and how to respond. Reprinted with permission…

Illegal Immegrants

July 15, 2014

Dear friends

Greetings from home where I just completed my immigration exam after 40 hours of training. Once I get my test results I will start the practical training/experience and look forward to being certified as a BIA Accredited Representative by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

I have received a lot of questions about the tens of thousands of Central American children who have either come to the United States or tried to come. The numbers have increased rapidly: 2012 – 8,000 children; 2013 – 14,000 children; 2014 an estimated 60,000 children will come.

Laura and I have been ministering with Central Americans since 1981. We spent time in Guatemala and El Salvador during the worst times of the civil wars. We have been ministering with Hondurans since 1991. As you know, two friends of ours were killed in Honduras 2 ½ years ago. I feel we have the experience to comment on the situation the children are facing and fleeing.

There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed and answered. Simple divisive rhetoric will not help the situation. We are talking about the lives of children.

The violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala is at an all time high. In my opinion the violence is much worse in all of these countries than during the wars. The one exception is the highlands in Guatemala where the Mayans live. During the 1980’s the evangelical president committed genocide against the Mayans.

I could go through example after example of people I know who have sons, daughters, and spouses who are brutally affected by the gang violence in poor neighborhoods. I know very few people who are not paying “extortion” to the gangs and even fewer who have not been personally affected by gang violence.

Two very close friends of mine received death threats from the gang? They were told that if they did not give them a lot of money in two weeks they would kidnap their two daughters. They would rape them, dismember their bodies and scatter the body parts throughout the community. They also said there was no reason to call the police because they were in on the threats.

I knew two girls from one of the churches in Guatemala. I am not sure their story but I do know that their body parts were found throughout the neighborhood.

What would you do and how would you feel if your daughter said, “I am 14 and I live in Honduras. What is the difference if I get raped on my way to the United States (estimates are 60%) or get raped here?” This is a direct quote from a young Honduran girl.

If you want to see the reality of most poor neighborhoods in Central America watch the movie “Sin Nombre.” The only thing I would say is that it has become worse since the movie was made.

In 1939 the United States (and Cuba and Canada) turned away 937 German Jewish refugees from entering our country and they had to return to Europe. It is estimated that 254 were eliminated (German word for exterminated). Are we doing this again?

I think the question that Christians need to ask themselves is, “Are we Christians first or are we US citizen first?” If we are Christians first we will love those in need over what is perceived best for the nation state.

We say we are people of the Word. I have heard very little about what the Bible teaches. It teaches that we are to treat the alien and stranger as a native to our own land (Lev. 19:34). Romans 12:13 teaches that we are to be hospitable. The Greek word here is “phileoxenos”: the love of the alien and stranger. Stuart Briscoe translates this verse as “to pursue strangers (aliens) with love.” And then we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. And who is our neighbor: the one in need, the one we despise, and the one that God gives us an opportunity to love.

The Bible never says and in fact is against the attitude that we are to love our neighbors as long as it does not affect our country and our lifestyle. It seems to me these attitudes are not Biblical teachings but, in fact, are against the love Jesus has commanded us to share and live out, and against the love He demonstrated to us.

Others say we need to obey the laws of the country. Does this mean we would have turned in Jewish people during the Holocaust? Does it mean we would have encouraged the Christians in Iraq to obey Sadam Hussein? Or, are we outspoken against the founding fathers of the United States for not obeying the English, the country and authority they were under?

This is not a matter of obeying the laws, it is a matter of children being sent back into situations where there is chaotic violence and a good possibility that they will be killed, raped, or forced into gangs.

My prayer is that Christian leaders, pastors, and all of us would start to aggressively speak out to allow these children to stay. We should say that we will take any of the children, who do not have families here, into our homes. I cannot see another Christian or Biblical alternative.

I know this is somewhat against the grain of many Christians. But when Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself, he is saying we are to love these children as if they were our own.

Thank you for your concern. It is a difficult situation. But let us at least commit ourselves to stand on solid Biblical teachings and a Biblical lifestyle.

I am praying for God’s grace to reign in this horrible situation.

In His Love,

Steve Reed
4745 15th Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95810