Responding to the Coming "Amnesty" Executive Order

It is pretty likely, according to most political pundits, that President Barack Obama will issue an executive order granting something that could be called amnesty to certain illegal immigrants at some point during the remaining two years of his presidency. In fact, there are some reports that such an order could be enacted soon, perhaps as early as next week. The coming political reaction is just as predictable. Most liberals will be ecstatic, and most conservatives will decide whether they want to be apoplectic for social reasons or for political reasons. I am not too interested in our response politically, although I think we should be careful in that regard, given that it is perfectly possible for the EO to function legally; I want to explore, though, how we should respond to this inevitable action as Christians.

Joey and I wrote two articles on immigration on the blog this past summer. Joey encouraged Christians to consider immigration, illegal or otherwise, first with compassion and only afterwards through political lens. I argued that our theology, even more than our morality, should inform our perspective on immigration. Our focus was not to convince anyone to have a particular position on immigration, but to encourage the church to remember that, whatever our particular positions, we should remember that we ourselves are “sojourners in a foreign land.”

The coming Executive Order regarding amnesty is the perfect opportunity to incarnate Christ in our response. Our temptations will be either to cheer the order and to ridicule those opposed to it as backwards, silly bigots who do not understand the inclusiveness of both Jesus and the Statute of Liberty, or to decry the order as yet another example of the tyrannical, socialist America-hating agenda of our terrible President who will not rest until English is a second language and jobs for blue-collar (read: white) citizens are gobbled up by these illegals (read: criminals). Neither response, in my opinion, is biblical nor God-glorifying, and both miss the point entirely.

It is missing the point because while politics and the cultural direction of our country are important, our call to testify to the love of Jesus is more important. Whatever our personal positions, my simple encouragement is to remind ourselves that our shared humanity should inform our response. Sure, there are some illegal immigrants who have cheated the system and are possibly some sort of danger to society (although they probably won’t be included in those granted amnesty). But let’s remember that many of those who are granted amnesty are people who risked uprooting their family and untold amounts of danger for the chance of an honest existence in a land that was not run by drug-dealers and gangsters, where their kids have a exponentially better chance of getting educated and not dying. They will rightfully rejoice that they no longer live in fear of being sent back to the daily reminders that their lives are hopeless, a reminder delivered effectively by heads on spikes. If we rejoice with those who rejoice, will we be compromising our political convictions? Perhaps, but I hope that is not a determinative factor in our reaction.

Perhaps this hypothetical executive order will be a presidential overreach and even downright unconstitutional. It is not wrong, of course, to argue as such. But such arguments can be made gently and sensitively. Making certain arguments compassionately does not hinder their effectiveness. More importantly, our concern for the enforcement of governmental laws should not usurp our concern for the souls of those around us.

In John 8, one of my favorite passages of Scripture, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They knew very well that the law required that she be put to death on account of her adultery, and were attempting to trap Jesus. His response was, of course, brilliant. “Let he who is perfect cast the first stone.” One by one, John tells us, they dropped their stones and left. After they left, Jesus looked up and asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” (Aside: the way Jesus asks the question, after looking up from writing in the sand and as if he did not already know the answer to the question, always makes me laugh.) But his next words are particularly instructive. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, therefore, and sin no more.” Jesus’ role was not to serve as a political ruler or to revolutionize the government, and He was not interested in the legal requirements in this particular case. But He also was not ambivalent towards the state of her soul; He exhorted her to sin no more. He was simply less interested in the requirements of the laws of the land than he was in the state of her soul.

In encouraging Christians to respond to this hypothetical order with compassion, I am not advocating for ambivalence. My hope is simply that, like Jesus, we be marked by our desire to preach the Gospel and to display mercy and compassion. Laws are important and serve a vital role and I do not think that we should be ambivalent towards them. But we will have an opportunity to, in a very practical way, display love and reflect Christ, and I think we can do that without compromising our convictions or implicitly downplaying the necessity of obeying laws. My prayer is that our political zeal would not hinder or displace our biblical mandate.

Liberals are the compassionate, inclusive ones. Conservatives are the patriotic, America-protecting ones. These generalizations and caricatures meant the most important One who welcomes the outcast and needy, and calls His image-bearers to do the same, is forgotten.  Can we elevate Christ-imitating truth of political stereotypes? Yes, we can. And should.

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