The following piece was written by CCO leader and Saint Paul School of Theology seminary student, Orlando Gallardo. He is speaking from his faith, as a Christian, while reflecting on the role that faith leaders can and should play in the immigration debate. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Orlando Gallardo.
When we were meeting about the program for this event, I, as a good seminary student gave the idea that we should relate the issues of immigration to the church. Everyone looked at me and told me that I should be the one to do that….So here I am…my advice to you is do not suggest any ideas unless you want to have a responsibility for them on any given event.
All joking aside, isn’t that the problem with the church today? It does not want to take any responsibility about the way in which society is living. We do not want to be too awkward or we do not want to be too political. We do not want to take sides so that we do not lose members who disagree or lose the support of people who have money. Yet my question to you is: Was Jesus concerned about losing members or about money or about who agreed with him or not?
From what I read in the gospels Jesus was more concerned in doing what is just and right. Jesus was crucified because he was making a claim that was radical but it was the right claim. Jesus welcomed everyone into the kingdom of God, both Gentiles and Jews.
Did you know that the Law of Moses denied full citizenship to Gentiles? There were some harsh requirements to become a full citizen of Israel. In Deuteronomy 23:3-8, the text reads that Ammonites and Moabites were out of luck; they were never allowed to become full citizens. Edomites and Egyptians were allowed to be full citizens but only after the third generation. This is what the Law of Moses was claiming. For some people this was the law of God and there was no other way around it. One has to follow the law. I mean the law is the law…right!?
Well brother and sisters the gospel of Jesus claims something else. In Ephesians 2:11-13 and 19, one reads about the gentiles, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done to the body by human hands) —remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. …Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…”
You see brothers and sisters; the gospel is re-defining the laws of Moses. May I suggest that it was doing a reform of the laws of Moses about who was welcome as full citizens of Israel. The gospel was saying that the immigration laws that Moses had established were not working. Therefore, the gospel opened the citizenship of the gospel to everyone; it did not matter the color of one’s skin or their ethnicity…whether you are Asian or Hispanic or Black or White or any other label society wants to use to divide us…We are full citizens of the kingdom.
Now before we think of this claim as being only a spiritual citizenship. That is not the case of the gospel. The laws of Moses, just like today’s immigration laws, affected society in the first century. If you were a Gentile, in the first century, you were not welcomed inside the temple. You were not allowed to take leadership; you were a second class citizen. Does that sound similar to the stories that we have heard about undocumented immigrants so far?
Brothers and sisters this fight for justice is not a new fight. The laws of the land always need to be reconsidered and we need to ask ourselves: are they just?
The church must care about unjust laws because Jesus cared. The gospel proclaimed freedom from oppression to everyone. Back during the times of slavery in the U.S.A. people used to say that slavery was the law, but God said those laws are not just. Back when they considered women as second class citizens, they used to say those are the laws. But God said those laws are unjust! Back when segregation was the law, God again said those laws are unjust. Today, immigration laws are saying that undocumented immigrants do not have the right to pursue a better life…what do you think that God is saying today about immigration issues?
You know the famous saying, “What would Jesus do?” I am asking you brothers and sisters as the church: what do you think that Jesus would do after hearing these stories and the issues of immigration? May we respond and act in the same way that God has called us to do. Amen!