The ICE (used to be INS) have been in my community lately. Not in the church -- but in the neighborhood, looking for "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers." At first, it seemed they were after people who were involved in gang activity, something everyone (including most of the immigrants) would be happy about. But the other day someone said she saw a woman being taken away while her teenage daughter watched. And there are reports of schoolchildren coming home to find their parents missing. I don't know if they are just isolated incidents. It's hard to find out the facts because there's not much information out there.
An Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist church worships in our church building. Every Saturday morning, from 9:00 to 12:00, and sometimes even later, they come to church. They also have Wednesday evening Bible studies and a Saturday night youth group. They have revival services. They also volunteered to clean the building for us on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, after their sabbath is over. They are about the most earnest, serious Christians I have ever met. They believe in bringing people to Christ, having a personal relationship with Jesus. And I can't imagine that they ask people for immigration papers when they walk in the door. Should they? Of course not. We know as well as they do that the church's basic responsibility and reason for being is to preach the good news -- to tell about Jesus' life-giving love: and that love knows no limits.
I can't imagine that this Hispanic church doesn't have some "undocumented immigrants" among its members.
Now I have certain beliefs about doing justice in the world, but I am not a policy wonk. I have my set of "facts": things that I know about immigration. And I know that others have their own set of "facts": things that they know about immigration.
But I am a pastor, which means that I deal with sinners every day. In fact, as far as I know, those are the only people I deal with. Sinners.
But also, children of God. People who God loved enough to walk with, feed, forgive, and die for. As a pastor, I can only think of immigrants as children of God. If others are offended that I think that, so be it. They are also children of God.
And because I think of immigrants as children of God, I also think of them as worthy of food, clothing, a good job, and a voice to tell their story. I think of them as worthy of protection from those who would exploit them.
It doesn't mean that I don't believe in law and order, or that the policy issues regarding what is just are going to be easy to figure out.
But just because I can't figure it all out, doesn't mean I can't stand up and call them my sisters and brothers. Children of God, immigrants -- and sinners.
Just like me.