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In Theory: Illegal immigration: WWJD?

August 16, 2013

There are some 11 million undocumented people in America. Arguments rage about what can be done about them, from deporting each one to awarding citizenship depending on length of time in the U.S.

In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus overturned the common view of looking down on Samaritans and made his followers look at them in a positive light. In the story, an injured man is ignored by a priest and a Levite but helped by a Samaritan. At the end, Jesus asks, “Which of these three seemed to be a neighbor to him?” A follower answers, “He who showed mercy on him.” Jesus' response is, “Go and do likewise.”

Q: If Jesus was around today, what do you think his stance on America's undocumented immigrants would be?

The Samaritans and the ancient Hebrews had a long history together, back to when Joseph’s brothers sold him in slavery. There were times when they were in community with each other, marrying and raising families from their combined cultures. And there were times that they were bitter enemies.

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America is home to the largest Spanish-speaking population outside of Mexico. For many reasons, undocumented immigrants from many cultures have occupied this country faster than bureaucracy has been able to verify and authenticate them.

In Jesus’ story, he is not addressing his followers. He is telling the good Samaritan story to a teacher who has come to spar with him. Jesus casts the Samaritan in the role of radical activist; Jesus cast the Samaritan in Jesus’ own role, the role of savior.

As we humans confront each other over documentation, Jesus’ stance would be to remind us, “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Not one country or another’s, but the Lord’s. As times and methodologies change, Jesus tells us that it is in working together, and treating each other with dignity and respect rather than as “have and have nots,” that our challenges are more clearly identified, approached and solved. None of us ever knows when we will need the aid of a good Samaritan. When we are in distress and someone reaches out to help us, most likely we will not be first asking him or her for documentation.

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