Unity in Christ Magazine
Archived content from 2011 & 2012
For a number of years this was the official website for theUnity in Christ Magazine.
Content is from the site's 2011 & 2012 archived pages providing a selection of articles that give a brief glimpse of what this magazine offered its readership.
The purpose of this e-zine is to equip, inform, and educate our readers on how to serve a multi-ethnic society in a multi-cultural world through the various venues of the body of Christ.
Our Target Audience
Our target audience is international in scope appealing to the leadership of the church; denominational leaders, lay leaders, clergy, worship leaders, missionaries, chaplains, and educators who are passionate about fulfilling the mandates of Christ (Acts 1:8; John 13:34-35) in their ethnically diverse community.
Scope of Articles
Articles will be solicited from theologians, sociologists, pastors, military chaplains, prison chaplains, educators, evangelist, missionaries, worship arts pastors and artists and para-church leaders on subjects pertaining to but not limited to:
- Book reviews
- Church planting
- Cross-cultural communication
- Cross-cultural conflict resolution
- Ethnic Updates: Insights about the values, norms, and beliefs of featured ethnic groups.
- Featured Ministries: churches, campus ministries, youth ministries military chaplaincy, and missions who are working in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural setting.
- Inter-racial dating & marriage
- Leading a multi-cultural leadership team/staff
- Multi-cultural leadership development
- News articles from around the world related to ethnic issues
- Racial reconciliation
- Social Justice
- Theological issues
- Transitioning and revitalizing from a mono-ethnic to a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Church
- Urban Youth Ministry
- Worship Arts (musical genres, dance, musicianship, drama, etc)
It Ain’t Nice!
January 31, 2011
Is ignorance an excuse? Is multicultural ministry nice for some but not for us? Dr. David Anderson shares why multicultural ministry “ain’t nice.”It Ain’t Nice!
NEW THIS ISSUE
Article by Derwin L. Gray added January 31st, 2011
How do you grow a church plant from 178 to 1100 in less than a year. Pastor Derwin Gray of Transformation Church, answers this question.
“Breathtaking” describes what God has done at Transformation Church (TC) since we launched February 7, 2010. God has grown us from 178 people to over 1400. We’ve seen nearly 200 of those people commit their lives to Jesus and close to 100 people have been baptized. We’re transforming our community as we’ve adopted an elementary and middle school, and God has provided in such a way that we’ve been able to give over $60,000 to local and international ministries. Over 400 servant-leaders serve in vital ministry areas, as well as receive monthly training, as a part of our leadership development.
I’m often asked “How did this happen?” The better question is, “What is the vision God has tattooed in your heart?” God works through leaders by tattooing their souls with a unique vision. Our passion has always been to steward the vision and trust God with the results. He’s the hero of our story.
I noticed in my itinerant preaching ministry, regardless of the area of the country where I was preaching, the environments were ethnically (racially) segregated. I knew this wall of segregation was shattering God’s heart and was a poor witness to those who don’t follow Christ. For years, I was critical about this issue. But God challenged me, “Don’t criticize; create.”
At TC, we are a group of people on a mission because of our vision. We are a “multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community that loves God completely (Upward), ourselves correctly (Inward), and our neighbors compassionately (Outward)”. This is our vision.
A vision of the future shapes how we live in the present.
When you join us for a weekend worship service at TC or visit one of our home groups, you will see ethnically and generationally diverse people sharing life. TC is not a multi-ethnic church by accident. Hours of prayer birthed our vision and we’ve taken intentional steps to partner with God in birthing a multi-ethnic church.
Along with being multi-ethnic, TC is intentionally multi-generational. It’s common on any given weekend to see a “wisdom-haired” couple teaching a preschool class, singles in their 30′s serving alongside “empty-nesters” on our hospitality team or teenagers playing in our band. Teens are discipled by serving weekly on the production, worship, children’s ministry, and hospitality teams. We believe teenagers are not the Church of tomorrow. They are the Church of now! Marinate on this email:
I have never experienced anything like TC. God is transforming our community through your church. I want people in the Fort Mill area to hear about it. I’m from Fort Mill High School and I’m part of the Buzz staff which is our school news program. Writing an article on TC is a great way for people to see the awesome things God is doing.
Our vision also includes being “mission-shaped”. Recently, God overwhelmed me as I baptized Latino, white, black, Asian, and bi-ethnic people. Even though the baptism pool was freezing, I melted under the heat of God’s love because in less than one year, nearly 100 people have been baptized. We see ourselves as a community of missionaries being sent on mission with Jesus to infect non-carriers with His holy virus called ‘grace’. We are a Great Commission Community motivated by the Great Commandment and empowered by our Great God of grace.
God produces the results, we steward the vision.
God has blessed me with a humble, gifted, unified leadership team. The lead team was birthed in pain and prayer. As my wife, Vicki, and Angela–a single mother who shared our vision– and I sat around my dining room table (which had been turned into a makeshift office in August 2009), I had an emotional crash. I knew I needed an executive pastor to help implement this vision. The emotional crash occurred because my felt need for an executive pastor was stronger than my realization that Jesus must be the One to implement this God-sized vision. Jesus, in His grace, allowed me to come to the end of myself. When I acknowledged that Jesus was enough, He brought Tim Jordan to the team. Tim had directed the business operations of a mega church in Charlotte. Then God brought Paul Allen, an executive pastor with 30 years of ministry experience. I convinced Paul to join our fledgling staff by offering him our vision and half of my salary, which came out to be $34,000. TC was launched with Paul and me each starting at $34,000. And we had lint in our bank account.
Leader, if your vision doesn’t cost you anything, it’s not worth following.
In less than a year, I now shepherd a staff of 11 catalytic leaders. Never forget, you can’t out-give God financially and you can’t have a vision that’s too big to scare Him.
How We Transitioned a Homogenous Church
How do you transition a homogenous church? Dr. Wayne Schmidt shares five principles every senior pastor should apply in the process of becoming multiethnic.
Multi-Ethnicity, the Moon and the Local Church
Is it necessary for the multi-ethnicity of the universal church of Christ to be reflected in the local church? David Stevens shares how the local church is a microcosm of the universal church.
The Importance of Being Earnest in Worship
Article by Nikki Lerner added January 31st, 2011
The Church is multicultural but the worship team is not? What does that say to visitors and how can you incorporate diversity into your worship ministry? Nikki Lerner Director of Worship Arts at Bridgeway Community Church shares some advice.
People crave authenticity. This is especially true in conversations regarding worship in the church. Worship magazines devote entire issues to the subject. We pursue authenticity as leaders and we require it of those we lead. However, it seems as though an essential piece of our authenticity is missing among some worship ministries in multicultural churches. This truth was glaringly obvious during a workshop that I recently taught, where roughly 90% of the multicultural worship pastors and leaders in the room admitted that their worship ministries were mono-cultural.
Can a mono-cultural worship ministry authentically communicate the vision of a multicultural church?
A lack of racial and cultural diversity in your worship ministry can undermine the larger value of diversity among your church or ministry as a whole.
Don’t underestimate the power of what people see. It is critical to what they experience. What people see when they walk into your church or ministry atmosphere speaks volumes to them as they go through the process of trying to find a home church. Imagine that you are visiting your church for the very first time. Coming in through the main entrance, you see a lovely array of diverse people waiting to greet you at the door: White people, Black people, Hispanic people, Indian people and Deaf people. You are encouraged by the church’s mission statement on the wall regarding its God-given mandate to represent the Body of Christ in its fullness. Walking into the gathering space, you notice the representation of different people groups who have all made the choice to come together and worship as a community.
Now, the service begins. The worship team comes out and is a lovely group of people, all of whom are Asian. What message would this send to you? How would what you see on the stage line up with what you had experienced up until this point? The worship team being mono-cultural might communicate that you’ve just walked into an Asian church, or maybe that only the Asian people in the church can minister through music. Do we believe this to be true – that only one racial group has the corner market on good music? Of course not!
However, as leaders of dynamic worship ministries, the opportunity for our ministries to reflect the already-existing diversity of the Body of Christ will be ever before us. Pursuing and growing a racially and culturally diverse worship ministry will a) give your ministry credibility among your church community, b) equip your ministry with multiple musical and cultural perspectives on worship in the church, and c) reinforce the vision of the Church as a whole. As worship leaders, we have a great opportunity to leverage the people-resources that God has given us to model the importance of diversity in music, culture, and relationship. Our role as leaders of being intentional with the people we invite to participate in our ministries is crucial to the health and diversity of the church as a whole.
How to diversify your worship ministries through race and culture
This can be challenging at times. For some of you, you look at the “pool” of people that you currently have and you wonder where the diversity will come from, especially when there is a need for people with instrumental or vocal ability. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
- Conversations… Ask people what they are good at. You may be surprised that there are singers and musicians in your congregation who are gifted but may, due to the lack of diversity in your stage ministry, think that their gifts would be of no value. Take leadership by inviting them to be a part of the ministry.
- Creativity… Remember that there are other ways to incorporate the beauty of diversity in your worship set and ministry through venues other than music. If you are having difficulty finding people of different ethnicities who are instrumentalists or vocalists, invite them to read scripture or perform a dramatic reading during the worship time. Who said that your worship sets can’t be filled with things other than music? There are many ways to worship God!
Right now, right where you are, conditions are perfect for you to lead your ministry to the place where people are able to see the authenticity of the multicultural church modeled through worship. Whether through music, reading, or speaking a native tongue, trust that God has brought specific people to your church for a specific reason… to more fully represent and authenticate the multicultural Body of Christ.
Book Review: Multicultural Ministry Handbook
Article by Dr. Willie O. Peterson added January 31st, 2011
Dr. David Anderson and members of his staff, write their respective stories of serving in a multicultural church.
Multicultural Ministry Handbook: Connecting Creatively in a Diverse World
Edited by David A. Anderson & Margarita R. Cabellon. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2010 (180 pages).
By Dr. Willie O. Peterson
Multicultural Ministry Handbook contains the inspirational story of the emergence of a multicultural church, with an attendance of more than 2,000, located in Columbia Maryland. That this multicultural church is possible is both refreshing and amazing, in the same universe described by Emerson and Smith in their landmark book, Divided by Faith, as a “racialized society” (pp 7, 11-17).
This motivational story is told by the founder and senior pastor Dr. David A. Anderson, and eight others who lived the very experiences described within these 180 pages. In each of the 11 chapters a particular ministry focus is discussed by those involved in that ministry. This is a remarkable story of how God raised up a congregation of people so different in so many ways. What a testament to the faith and disciplined hard work of a visionary leader. Dr. Anderson persuaded others to journey with him to where this exciting faith community is today. Telling the Bridgeway Community Church story from the first person perspective of practitioners was a brilliant strategy and is a benefit of the book. The contagious enthusiasm of each contributor is another benefit of the book. Like hitting the ski slopes, playing golf, or Tiddlywinks, having experienced the multicultural church they love it. Multicultural ministry to them is about more than just personal preferences, their convictions run deep and they strongly recommend it to the Reader. It is also a benefit that most chapters include questions probing the Reader’s thinking and readiness for doing multicultural ministry.
Along with strengths the Reader will discover the book’s major weakness is in the customary sense it is not a handbook. When this Reviewer saw Handbook in the title anticipation went off the charts. It was exciting because there is a definite place in the multicultural church literature for a handbook. Perhaps the book might have resembled The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. The need for such a resource would certainly be a welcomed addition by the novice and veteran alike. Additional in-depth discussion of the theology, theory and the numerous underlying complex concepts would make the label handbook a bit more precise. Readers might imagine being stuck and turning to a topical index for a helpful quick reference. But apparently this was not intended to be a technical text. This deficiency is highlighted by the missing dimension of “how to” in the book. Readers are interested in the correlations between practices and rationales that informed the conclusions reached.
However, in chapter 11 “Going Further” the Reader is told:
If after reading this book you are interested in more hands on help or instructions from our team, we are here to serve you through the BridgeLeader Network (BLN) the consulting arm of Bridgeway Community Church. p.164
Readers will find the technical material not in the handbook is available through consultation. The book complements the consulting arm of the church. Chapter 11 gives an overview of topics not developed in the book. The consulting “how to” curriculum menu broadly covers essential multicultural ministry content and methodology. Despite any weakness, hopefully their story will inspire many to consider following their example. No this is not a handbook in the sense that it tells Readers how to do what they have done. But that help is available through the consulting service. From all appearances one can say the consultation will probably be worth the price.
CD Review: I Made It – featuring Sounds of SunriseArticle by Josh Davis added January 31st, 2011
A new worship album featuring members of the Sunrise Church Praise Team.
From the quoting of Psalm 136 to the testimony and prayers interwoven with songs, “I Made It” is an authentic worship experience. The worshiping life of the intentionally multi-ethnic Sunrise Church of California is captured on this project which leans heavily towards the black gospel end of the music spectrum. Most of the songs are arranged for choir and soloist to minister to the saints, but there are moments that feel more congregational, notably on “Alpha and Omega” and “To Our God.”
While the production quality and musicality is high for a church project, the cd is not pretentious. It blends cultures subtly with the occasional distorted electric guitar solo over a more traditional sounding gospel instrumentation. And generations converge with the participation from the church’s children’s choir on “I Need You To Survive.”
And now for my favorite tracks… have a listen!
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“Who Is Like The Lord?” I love the live feel and tight groove of this song. The gutsy and joyful male lead vocal blends well with the creative harmonies and rhythms of the choir. Some great ear candy! In between sections of laughter and celebration, the smooth female lead takes us to a totally peaceful place. The verses are very singable, even congregational and the lyrics are based loosely off some of my favorite verses of Romans 8.
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The familiar title track “I Made It” invites the listener to think about how far God has brought them and to celebrate that by singing along on the chorus. The choir vocals are clean and clear, very sweet. (Maybe a bit too sweet at times? In my opinion, the words “heartache” and “depression” merit a bit more of a groan.) But, the soloist is convincing and really makes you feel the words that are being expressed. A choir could easily use this recording to learn the song, as each part is clearly distinguishable. I’ve had this song stuck in my head (gladly!) for the last several days.
First Year Anniversary Summary
Looking back at 2010 a summary of Unity in Christ Magazine’s one year anniversary.
February 1, 2011
Congratulations on your first anniversary! What a delight to see UNITY IN CHRIST MAGAZINE growing and thriving. Thank you so much for your vision, persistence, hard work, and dependence on God to make it a reality. And kudos to every friend, supporter, and contributor. May their tribe increase! My ongoing prayer for you and your ministry: “By His power, may God fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith” (2 Thess. 1:11b)…
Welcoming the Stranger: A New Testament Perspective
Article by Juan Martinez added April 24th, 2012
Rodney Cooper states that, “the immigration debate is divisive many Christians are taking a socio-political approach to this issue as opposed to a theological-biblical stance.
A common prayer request in immigrant Latino churches is “please pray for my relative who is coming (crossing) tonight.” All of us in the prayer meeting know that this is code for crossing the border illegally. What should we pray for: that a humane border patrol agent catches the person, that she or he does not get caught, for safety in the desert or that the human smugglers not abuse the person who is crossing? The issue becomes more complex when the relative shows up in church the next Sunday thanking God for protection as he/she crossed. Was God protecting this person as he or she was breaking US law?
Working among the undocumented means being willing to minister in this ethical limbo. The undocumented come to the US because there are work opportunities and the US economy benefits from their labor. But changing US immigration laws, and their changing interpretation and application, mean that the legal system does not provide legal status and protection for those that the economic system attracts. Political expediency makes the undocumented scapegoats of multiple ills, though most are hard working and are contributing to the economy and social fabric of the country. One of the political throwaway lines is that “they should wait in line,” refusing to address the fact that, under current law, there is no line where the majority of the undocumented could hope to obtain legal permission to be in the country, no matter how long they were willing to wait.
The Christian ethical debate tends to focus around either the importance of obeying the law using Romans 13 as its biblical foundation, or it focuses on mercy, using the Old Testament mandates of caring for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner (Deuteronomy 10:18,19; Jeremiah 7:6; Zechariah 7:10). Yet both of these fall short when dealing with the complexities of the undocumented. Both point to part of the issue, but they tend to leave out a third part; what should a Christian do when human laws are either clearly unjust or, at least, disconnected from the reality of those who suffer under them? What should a Christian do when politics guides the debate and not the reality of those who live under the impact of the laws and their application? How should a Christian address human law when ministering among those whose mere presence near my church means they are breaking the law?
As a pastor among the undocumented I face the reality of a broken immigration system. For example, most states will not allow the undocumented to obtain a driver´s license, but then complain when the undocumented are uninsured. I have personally walked with many people caught in the immigration system where they have done all the that laws require, but are still denied legal status. I have had to talk to parents about what should happen to their US born children if they are deported. But I have also seen that many of the undocumented are people of faith and are sure that God is walking with them even as God walked with the migrant, Abraham.
At the end of 2005 Congressman James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin proposed legislation (HR4437) that would have made it a felony to help the undocumented. At that time Cardinal Roger Mahoney, then Roman Catholic Cardinal of Los Angeles, stated that he would instruct the priests in his diocese to disobey this law, if passed.
On the other hand Southern Baptists in Alabama have found themselves in a dilemma. When Latinos began moving into the South in the 1990s they started many congregations among Latinos and began support programs, such as publishing and leadership development. But Southern Baptists strongly supported the anti-immigrant law in Alabama that caused many Latinos, even those with legal documentation, to leave the state. Their Latino congregations have been adversely affected. Yet local Southern Baptists are against an “amnesty” that would potentially give their brothers and sisters in Christ the chance to legalize their status, even though national Southern Baptist leaders are calling for immigration reform that would include the “dreaded amnesty.
Of course, immigration law is skewed. The undocumented may be “breaking and entering,” but when they enter they paint the walls, clean the house, cut the grass, prepare the next meal, fix the plumbing and take care of the children. And they pay in taxes much more than they ever get in benefits. So I not only have to ask legal or mercy questions, I also have to address justice issues.
So as a pastor I have to address legal issues; I work alongside those who might be able to legalize their status. But I also work to “fix” the broken system that continues to break up families and deny opportunity to young people who have lived most of their lives in this country. It is also my task to help those being deported and their families who remain. But that is not enough. As a Christian I need to have a prophetic streak and denounce the injustices of our political and economic systems. Yet even that is not enough. I also have to ask; how is God working in the midst of global migratory patterns? What is God doing in the world through the movement of the poor and how can I become a part of His work? In other words, whom would Jesus serve and whom would he “hang” with?
NEW THIS ISSUE
CD Review: We Are Arrabon
Article by Josh Davis added April 24th, 2012
Old hymn texts are set to fresh music, Lyrics traditionally sung in White churches are sung in a Black-gospel style bridging racial boundaries. Sitar, dance grooves, and acoustic guitar are combined with soulful vocals, saxophone solos, and latin percussion.
Arrabon (a Greek word, loosely translated “earnest”) is the brainchild of David Bailey and is the result of a collaboration of artists that care deeply about multi-cultural worship and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. From the opening notes of “We Are Arrabon”, I was glad to hear a strong sense of community and earnest, diverse worship. Old hymn texts are set to fresh music, encouraging generations to come together. Lyrics that have traditionally been more common in White churches are sung in a traditionally Black-gospel style, helping to bridge racial boundaries. Sitar, dance grooves, and acoustic guitar are combined with soulful vocals, saxophone solos, and latin percussion.
1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
[Psalm 33:1, 3]
Throughout the album, Arrabon beautifully interweaves rich theology and strong musicality. There is some seriously skillful playing on this project! Highlights for me include the saxophone solos on Psalm 1 and Doxology, the tight background vocals on Jesus, Thank You, and the feisty brass of Strength and Shield. Have a listen to the latin-based setting of Psalm 28:
“We Are Arrabon” consistently exalts the Word of God. Several tracks include direct quotes from Scripture that are either spoken or sung. I love the creativity and the multi-ethnic feel of Psalm 51! As I listen, my heart and mind come alive with ideas of how to use this song, and songs like it, in corporate worship settings. The delightful melodic/scriptural hook, with an Indian feel, is simple and easy to sing with any congregation. After each hook is sung, scriptures are then read by people from different cultures, with different accents, highlighting the multi-ethnic worship vision. In your context, this could easily be done replicating what Arrabon did, or even trading out these readings for scripture readings in different languages. All of this sits atop a funky dance-like musical foundation. Enjoy!
I am increasingly grateful for the music that is coming out these days which is specifically designed for the multi-ethnic church. I believe that every multi-ethnic worship leader should buy this cd (download for only $10!!!) and be encouraged and inspired. While you are at it, check out David Bailey’s book: ARRABON: Learning Reconciliation through Community and Worship Music, written to help Christian communities overcome the 3 obstacles to integrating cultural diversity in their worship gatherings.
Book Review: Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families. By Elizabeth Conde-Fraizer.
Article by Dr. Willie O. Peterson added April 24th, 2012
Conde-Fraizer has made the ancient immigration policy God gave to Israel relevant for 21 century American Christians. Every page, each family anecdote, reinforces God’s guidelines governing Israel’s relationship to immigrants.
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NASB) “As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the LORD.” Numbers 15:15 (NASB)
As a student of Old Testament Theology this Reviewer was thrilled by the author’s creative presentation of a paramount theological issue of our day, immigration. In Listen to the Children, Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Fraizer, a distinguished scholar and preacher, paints a gripping story in her little book of 144 pages. Unfortunately too many will be unable to appreciate fully the Christian theological implications of her book. This possibility exists, first, because of the current ambiguous status of immigration in the United States. Additionally, this possibility exists because Christians generally have a rather limited theological rationale regarding immigrants.
When God was preparing Israel to possess its own land, God also outlined a set of guidelines governing Israel’s relationship with future immigrants in their land. In addition to those specific guidelines, God offered a specific rationale for this immigration policy. Contained within God’s policy for Israel is pertinent spiritual truth that should inform the immigration stance of each of us as Christian citizens.
First, it was the character of God that was the standard by which Israel was required to relate to immigrants. Second, the underlying principle for Israel’s immigration policy was their own experience as immigrants in Egypt and God’s care for them. Included in the broader categories of those guidelines were issues of justice and full access to Yahweh.
This is a time in the United States when it might be too generous to say crisis fatigue explains many of our malevolent attitudes toward immigrants. However, a more biblically enlightened Christian population could make an enormously positive difference regarding the many justice issues surrounding immigrants in our land.
Listen to the Children, is a compelling message, one this Reviewer hopes will be read/heard by so many of us who need desperately to hear it. The author’s writing approach in the book is slanted toward the Social Sciences. She has effectively used the supporting data to convict if not shame us for our indifference. Conde-Fraizer has made the ancient immigration policy God gave to Israel relevant for 21 century American Christians. Every page, each family anecdote, reinforces God’s guidelines governing Israel’s relationship to immigrants.
Welcoming the Stranger: A New Testament Perspective
Rodney Cooper states that, “the immigration debate is divisive many Christians are taking a socio-political approach to this issue as opposed to a theological-biblical stance.”
The Illegal SamaritanArticle by Paul Louis Metzger added April 24th, 2012
A student from Arizona in my world religions class in my evangelical seminary told me that he would never give a cup of water to an illegal immigrant because it is against the law in Arizona.
The Good Samaritan story recorded in Luke 10:25-37 could have been titled The Illegal Samaritan story, too. It just depends on who’s telling the tale. Jesus told it first, and so he naturally, or better supernaturally, put a redemptive spin on it.
The Samaritan in this story should have never crossed the road to tend to the Jewish man (the story implies that the robbed and beaten man was Jewish). Why shouldn’t the Samaritan have crossed the road to tend to him? Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans (See Jn. 4:9), and I doubt many Samaritans would have liked for this Samaritan man to associate with Jews. Not even the Jewish religious leaders crossed the boundary in that the half-dead man was probably given up for dead, and they would have been made unclean for touching him (See Num. 19:11). How ironic then that an unclean Samaritan came close, touched the half-dead Jewish man, tended to his wounds, and made him clean.
We all have relational boundaries and borders we won’t cross because of written laws and unspoken rules. The Jewish religious leaders wouldn’t cross to tend to their own because of their laws and rules, whereas the Samaritan crossed because of the law written on his heart. Jesus puts to story form the Law’s command to love our neighbors—those created in the image of God like us—as ourselves. All other laws and customs take a back seat to it and the law that leads to it—loving God with our whole being (Lk. 10:27).
Jesus tells this story to a religious leader, who had come to test Jesus. The religious hierarchy was afraid of Jesus. As illustrated by this story, he was a threat to their positions and to national security (See also Jn. 11:48, where they fear Jesus for his miraculous signs). If given space and time, Jesus would have done away with the boundaries and closed border barriers that kept people of different ethnic and economic heritages separate from one another (Actually, he did remove those barriers through the cross and resurrection, and we have crossed those barriers through our baptism by faith in him [See for example Gal. 3:23-29]. May we live into our life in Christ! ).
What would have happened to the Jewish community’s sense of solidarity as a people, if they had allowed Jesus to continue teaching such propaganda? Jesus messed with their personal boundaries and geographic boundaries. Just as he told a lowly Samaritan woman that true worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth (not on this or that mountain [Jn. 4:19-24]), so he told this Jewish religious leader he needed to become like this Samaritan and cross the border to care for his neighbor. This Jewish religious leader’s “neighbor” included the half-dead Jew, the half-Jew Samaritan, and everyone else with whom he would come into contact, for everyone is created in God’s image.
As in Jesus’ day, we have written laws and unspoken rules that tell us some people are more equal than others and that some bear God’s image more than others. Just like in the 1st Century A.D., Jesus messes with our boundaries and borders and tells us to tend to everyone and heal their wounds. What borders do we erect personally, nationally, religiously?
A student from Arizona in my world religions class in my evangelical seminary told me that he would never give a cup of water to an illegal immigrant because it is against the law in Arizona. Whether or not it is against the law in Arizona, it is not against Jesus’ law to give a cup of water to such a person. In fact, it would be against Jesus’ law not to give the cup of water to this neighbor, this fellow created in God’s image. Where did my student learn to think this way? From reading his Bible? From hearing sermons of this kind? He didn’t even struggle with his conviction, at least not outwardly. What would Jesus do? What would he have us do? Jesus tells this scholar (me) and that student’s pastors back home to go and do like the illegal Samaritan did and cross customs and boundaries and borders that keep people apart and care for the neighbor in need. If we do so, not only will they live, but also we will live. As Jesus tells the religious leader, so he tells us now: “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).
Escape from El Salvador
Art Lucero documents the story of one families coming to America. “We lived with the fear that there was no guarantee for our survival. It was then we made the decision to go to the United States.”
“Who Would Jesus Deport” Ministering Among the Undocumented in the Midst of a Broken Immigration System
Juan Martinez asks “What should a Christian do when human laws are either clearly unjust or, at least, disconnected from the reality of immigrants who suffer under them?” What would Jesus do?
The Immigration Debate: Insights from the Bible
Article by Daniel Carroll added April 24th, 2012
Daniel Carroll argues that believers are to treat immigrants with respect and kindness.
Immigration is about people, and the Bible emphatically affirms that every person has value in the sight of God. Genesis 1:26-28 states that all human beings are made in the image of God. Everyone—including the immigrant—has worth and the unique potential to contribute to society and the common good. This is where discussions on immigration must begin. Appreciating newcomers as made in the image of God would eliminate the heated rhetoric and unfortunate labeling that is prevalent in the national debate. It should motivate those who claim the Christian faith to treat immigrants with respect and kindness. Millions of those who have arrived in this country are Christians, which underscores even more the necessity of looking at these people differently.
The Bible can be read as a book about migrants written by those who experienced migration firsthand or were part of communities that had been shaped by a history of migration. Here is a brief and selective summary:
Old Testament Narratives
- The story of the chosen people starts with Abram’s pilgrimage to another land (Gen. 11:31-12:5; 23:4; cf. Deut. 26:5). Over the following centuries his descendents left their homes because of hunger, war, forced exile, and natural disasters—the very things that drive individuals and their families today to migrate.
- Hunger: Abraham’s and Jacob’s families went to Egypt (Gen. 12, 42-43). Naomi and her family left Bethlehem and went to Moab. When Naomi returned home, Ruth accompanied her. Now Ruth, who had married an immigrant, was the immigrant. Her story is a tale of hard work and assimilation.
- Forced migration: Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 37). Years later, thousands were taken into exile, when Israel fell to Assyria (2 Kings 17) and Judah to Babylon (2 Kings 24-25).
- Life in foreign lands could be difficult. The Israelites in Egypt suffered as slaves. Psalm 137 communicates the yearning for home and the frustration of those taken from Judah by Babylon. Not everyone, however, endured such humiliation and hardship. Joseph rose to prominence in Egypt. Daniel distinguished himself under several kings in Babylon. Mordechai achieved some success in Susa, and Esther became queen of the Persian Empire. Nehemiah was cupbearer to Artaxerxes, and Ezra and Ezekiel ministered freely among the exiles.
- Migration involves the interaction between peoples, the outsiders and the host culture. These Old Testament accounts are a window into levels of assimilation. Some acculturated to significant degrees. Joseph married an Egyptian and had children by her. He is so Egyptian that his brothers do not recognize him, but Joseph still could understand and speak his mother tongue. Jeremiah counsels the exiles to invest in their new surroundings (Jer. 29). Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah were born in exile. Esther never thinks about leaving, but Nehemiah does for a time to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra, a priest, leads a group back to Judah.
Old Testament Law
- The term ger (alien, sojourner) refers to those who moved in from elsewhere to live among the Israelites. The Law contains provisions to help them become part of the community. Concern for the sojourner makes sense against that ancient background. In an agrarian peasant world, extended family was available for support in times of need. Outsiders had no such safety net. Their outsider status also meant that they were excluded from the land tenure system. Therefore, they were dependent on the Israelites for work, sustenance, and protection.
- To counterbalance sojourners’ deficits the Law provided: rest from work (Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14), a fair and timely wage (Deut. 24:14-15), provisions for food (Deut. 14:28-29; 24:19-21), and impartiality in the legal matters (Deut. 1:16-17; 24:17-18). They also were invited to participate in several of the religious feasts. For all of this, the foreigner would have had to learn the ways and language of Israel.
- The prophets denounced those who mistreated the sojourner (Jer. 7:5-7; 22:2-5; Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5) and looked to the day, when their greater incorporation into national life (Ezek. 47:21-23; cf. Isa. 56:1-8).
- There were two primary motivations to show compassion toward sojourners. First, Israel was to remember that they had once been mistreated as foreigners in Egypt (Exod. 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34). More importantly, they were to love them, because God did (Deut. 10:17-19).
The New Testament Narratives
- Jesus and his parents were refugees. They fled Bethlehem to escape Herod and lived for a time in Egypt. They eventually returned and settled in Nazareth (Matt. 2).
- In Matthew 25 Jesus connects the final judgment to the treatment of the “stranger” (vv. 35, 38, 43-44). The term he uses is xenos (from which we derive ‘xenophobia’). Many appeal to Jesus’ words to defend the rights of immigrants. “The least of these” and “brothers” (vv. 40, 45) in Matthew appear to refer to Jesus’ disciples (10:42; 12:48f.; 18:6, 10, 14; 28:10). If that is correct, these “strangers” are those who suffer for Jesus’ sake. Many immigrants are Christians, but to apply the passage to all immigrants may stretch its original meaning. Yet, Jesus’ care for the marginalized is clear. The greatest illustration of his openness to those who are different was his treatment of the Samaritans, a people despised by the Jews (Lk. 10:30-37; 17:11-19; Jn. 4). Jesus was the ultimate outsider. He migrated from heaven to earth (Jn. 1:10-12; Phil. 2:5-11) and from Galilee to the cross in Jerusalem (Jn. 1:46; 7:40-52).
- Christians are to be gracious to others (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9), and this virtue should distinguish the leadership of the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8). Every Christian is a citizen of another kingdom (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14)—all the more reason to extend a hand to those without citizenship on earth.
- Finally, Peter calls all Christians “aliens” and “strangers” (1:1; 2:11). That is, migration is a key metaphor for understanding the Christian faith. For most, this is an abstract idea; for immigrants, this metaphor is a lived reality! Another reason to get to know immigrants and extend them grace. In so doing, we may learn more of what Peter spoke.
RickJune 25, 2012
The main debate in the United States is not one of migration, or immigration, but one of ILLEGAL immigration. I note that that is not addressed here. I do agree with all that has been set forth as evidence without any question. We as believers should have a proper respect for any and all people whom God created. God’s law was not to be taken lightly and often had very severe penalties even to death. As God sets up nations there are national and state laws that are not in conflict with God’s law and should be upheld and respected. There are ways for thousands of people from many countries to migrate to the United States legally. Those who choose illegal methods must be held accountable for their illegality even if it has to do with immigration.
M. Daniel Carroll R.June 27, 2012
Rick: Thank you for your comment. Just a few observations.
* Part of the problem is that most people do not know US immigration law (just one example, the quota systems set many years ago that does not reflect current economic realities). Many just assume that, because it is US law, it is inherently good and sensible. They believe that if one just follows proper procedures that one can enter legally. This well-intentioned and sincere view simply does not know US immigration law, which is very outdated, convoluted, and contradictory.
* Nor do most people know that the numbers of undocumented immigrants entering has been going down since 2006, due to the job market. They come to work. US business, especially in the farming sector and service industries, need their labor. Current US quotas are not even close to meeting those needs, so they come and are quickly hired. Yet, the political atmosphere is so charged that no one has the courage to update the quotas to the 21st century.
* No one seeking immigration reform (except for some extremists perhaps) is calling for open borders or amnesty, no matter what certain sectors of the media try to communicate. That is simply not true and is, sadly, an unfortunate scare tactic. I commend to you, for instance, the recent evangelical statement at http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com. You will see the balance there.
* It is also important to appreciate that immigration reform has two focii: the border issues and the need to address the millions who are here working (the mean length of stay now is over a decade). A biblical ethic needs to address all of this complexity. We cannot reduce biblical ethics on this issue simply to obeying the current unmanageable immigration law, which all sides agree needs changing. There are family issues, children, the exploitation of cheap labor, etc.
There is so much to discuss! You can see my book: Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Another good resource is: Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, Welcoming the Stranger. Both are available at amazon.com.