By: Joshua Stewart
Every December, Christians around the world observe a season of Advent. It is during this season that we await the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior while also waiting for his second coming when he will call us to our eternal, heavenly home.
During the advent season, as I am reminded of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, fully God, fully man, dwelling among us, I am reminded that he came to live among all of us. And this “all of us” includes the sojourners among us. Specifically, by sojourners, I am referring to undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
These groups of sojourners are often spoken of in our society with dehumanizing language. They are often depicted as “illegals” or “invaders” who “don’t share our values.” I hate the use of the term “illegal” to describe a human being. People are not simple objects. They are created in the image of God. These kinds of depictions also create an us versus them dynamic rather than all of us realizing that we are all made in God’s divine image.
But it’s not just our language that is appalling. Government policies over the years have not treated these sojourners with compassion. Forced separations of migrant children from their parents. The abysmally low number of refugees being welcomed into this country. The fear that so many DREAMers have that they will be deported from the country they know and love and call home. These are just some of the ways in which our government has not treated sojourners fairly with dignity and justice.
This leads to my fundamental question. Why should Christians care? Followers of Jesus Christ should care because doing so is biblical and caring for undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees represents a part of who God is, a God who cares for them. Therefore, Christians should also care and advocate for these groups of people.
In Zechariah 7:9-10, Zechariah speaks on behalf of God saying, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other” (NIV). Welcoming people fleeing poverty and violence and caring for foreigners who live in the United States are things God commands of those who truly want to follow God’s Word. Neglecting, mistreating, and dehumanizing sojourners is plotting evil, an abomination against God.
To quote Archbishop Oscar Romero, a 20th century martyr for the gospel, “The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God.” Not only is the neglect of sojourners an assault against other human beings, but it is an assault on the God whose image they bear.
Christians should see these people as God does. God created them, just as he created American citizens, in the image of God (see Gen 1:27). When King Herod sought to kill infant Jesus, who was the incarnation of God dwelling among humans, an angel appeared to Joseph, telling him to take Mary and Jesus, and flee to Egypt (see Matt 2:13-15). Mary, Joseph, and Jesus found asylum in Egypt. They were asylum seekers, without papers, finding refuge in a foreign land. They did what countless families do when they seek to escape poverty and/or violence. The Advent season reminds me of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus finding asylum. I shudder to think of how they would be treated today if they sought asylum in the United States. Would we turn away God incarnate the same way we turn away people made in his image?
As a body of believers, we must advocate for the sojourners among us. Aside from simply welcoming them into our communities as fellow image bearers of God, there are various ways in which Christians can advocate for these sojourners.
First and foremost, all children separated from their parents must be reunited with their parents. Other solutions must include providing resources and aid to Central American countries so that fewer families feel the need to leave their countries. And when they do find themselves with no other option than to flee to safety, we must be ready to welcome them. The United States must also reform drug policies so that drug cartels are less powerful and cause less harm to Central American families. Regarding those seeking asylum, care and compassion must be shown. While we allow asylum seekers to apply for asylum, families must be kept together. Unaccompanied minors must also be treated with dignity.
Regarding undocumented immigrants, the DACA program should remain in effect and comprehensive immigration reform must provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. We must also welcome refugees fleeing from war-torn countries, as well as those displaced by climate change, and welcome them to safety. This includes, but is not limited to, our Afghan, Haitian, and Central American neighbors. These are just some of the solutions that I believe can and should be taken, and Christians can be effective proclaimers of the gospel by advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
Scripture is clear that Christians should love, care for, and advocate for justice on behalf of those seeking refuge. If we Christians are to follow Christ’s command to love our neighbors, then we must advocate for and never dehumanize the sojourners among us. In doing so, we can show a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and expanding his kingdom.
Joshua Stewart is a CBF Leadership Scholar and is currently pursuing his Master of Divinity at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary while working as a graduate assistant. He is also an active member of Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, TX.
The drawing is a creation of Scott Turner. Scott is also pursuing his Master of Divinity at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He enjoys art and is an active member of Seventh & James Baptist Church, where he serves as the youth minister.