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If Christ were to return today and go to Arizona, would He be detained?

May 4, 2010

In light of the anti-immigrant law in Arizona, SB 1070, I have been doing a lot of research on the public sentiment in the state that led to this legislation.

While Governor Jan Brewer stated that this legislation is in response to the Federal Government failing to fix the “immigration problem” that her state is facing, other Arizona residents are looking to the Bible to justify their support of SB 1070. Some Evangelical Christian organizations in Arizona claim that this law is merely the state government protecting its people, which they believe is mandated by God in the Book of Romans, Chapter 13, Verse 4.

For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (NIV)

The danger of having such a narrow view of scripture is that it prevents these people from looking at the bigger picture. To call themselves Christian should imply that they also listen to the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospels. However, I have yet to find one of these groups citing the Gospels to support SB 1070. To offer a different perspective on how Jesus would react to what is going on in Arizona, I would look at Matthew 25:34,

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (NIV)

If Christ stands with the stranger or those who are the “least”, those who are sick, imprisoned, hungry, thirsty and without clothing and shelter, who would He stand with in Arizona? Would He stand with those who are trying to protect their upper-class lifestyle, or would He stand with those who are looking for food, water, shelter and a better way of life?

Another consideration is if Jesus were to come back today and come to Arizona as an Arab or even a Latino, what would happen to Him under SB 1070? Wouldn’t He also be detained indefinitely or worse as a result of racial profiling?

How do we as Christians listen to scripture? If we are listening to Jesus’ words, then what do those words call us to do in Arizona?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rev. Sandra Castillo permalink
    May 4, 2010 9:29 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful insights. I’ll pass it along to our congregation and community.

  2. David Carlson permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:09 pm

    Terrific article and good understanding of scripture. I am tired of Christians using pieces of Scripture that come from every place but Jesus. Preach it!

  3. Bree Herndon permalink
    May 5, 2010 12:17 pm

    Great article, Leif! I’m sharing on Facebook. I find it very interesting too that Brewer and other supporters of this bill are citing the “immigration crisis” when statistics show that the population of undocumented immigrants has declined by 7% in the last year.

  4. Sara permalink
    May 6, 2010 11:49 am

    Leif,

    This is a very thoughtful article! I agree with David. I would add that it is personally so disheartening to see people interpret scriptures in such an unchristian way.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Sara

  5. Josh Brockway permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:35 am

    Well said Leif,

    There are just too many scriptures which speak of care for the “stranger in the land.” Really the entire history of the Hebrews is about a displaced nation, aliens in a new land. I think your instinct to move to other scriptures is a good one for that very reason.

    I think I would have taken on the simplistic application of the Romans text….to not much avail. It seems to me that given Paul’s writing to both Jewish and Gentile Christians we can’t just pull out a verse about government and lay it over “sovereignty” issues as a kind of blessing. This is especially important given that all of Romans 12 deals with the centrality of love. I think that chapter reshapes how we understand an appropriate government….at least how we evaluate a government as God ordained.

    Josh

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