January 6, Friday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

What Life is like for Undocumented Immigrants

Heb. 11:13b-14, 16 (NIV)

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. . . 16 They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.

6In February of 2016, just before my greyhound bus left for Bakersfield from Los Angeles (a 3-hour ride), I was told that my connection bus, which would have taken me to the small city where I was scheduled to preach the next day at a Hispanic church, was cancelled. I quickly called the host pastor, who was returning from a conference in Nevada, to see if he could pick me up.  Fortunately, I only waited an hour before the pastor, along with his congregant (“Hugo”), arrived to collect me.  Later, we dropped off Hugo at his weather-beaten, single-story house; he seemed eager to get home, mostly because his wife just had their second child.

The year before, I was surprised to find out that Hugo, who speaks English well and doesn’t have many Hispanic features, was originally from Mexico.  During this visit, I learned that Hugo and his wife are illegal aliens, who have lived in the States for nearly 20 years.  Constantly living in fear of deportation, the only jobs Hugo can find consist of backbreaking farm work that pay just enough to fund a small mortgage and put food on the table. I also learned that many in this community are in the same predicament: always anxious, suspicious of new people, and stuck in a dead-end job.  I’m not exactly a bleeding-heart liberal, but my heart went out for them all.

So, what do you, as a theological conservative who does not support illegal immigration, say to them from the pulpit?  I didn’t tell them to go home, because this is, in effect, their home.  There are border patrol agents whose job is to enforce immigration laws; while we pray for their safety, my call as a minister of the gospel is wholly different.  Whenever I get to share God’s Word before Hispanic congregations in America, I remind them of this: “We have all have made mistakes, but God forgives us in Christ.  If God has so convicted you, you can return home and share the gospel with your families and friends, steeped in syncretistic Catholicism.  And whenever you feel fearful, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’” (Phi. 4:7-8).

Now, there is one scriptural teaching that Hugo needs no reminder of; in fact, he may be way ahead of us: “He made his home . . . like a stranger in a foreign country. . .. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).  But, for us, because life in America is so comfortable, we live as if this is our destination.  May we, like Hugo, “admit[] that [we] are aliens and strangers on earth” (v. 13).  Let us then live and serve the Lord accordingly all the while “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (v. 16).

Hugo was always attentive whenever I taught.  His pastor was counting on him to step up to leadership and he seemed excited about the opportunity.  So, I prayed for him, calling upon the Lord to prepare Hugo for fruitful labor that would bring true hope in Christ to those who live with fear in his community.

Prayer: Lord, while we may pity those who face a bleak future, doing difficult work to make a living, perhaps it’s us who are to be pitied, since we see life in America as heaven and death as an interruption.  Please heal our spiritual blindness so that we may live for God wholeheartedly.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 5


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read 1 Peter 2:11-2 (NIV): Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Peter, in what sense are we to be aliens and strangers in the world?
  2. As aliens and strangers, what proactive things does Peter command us to do?
  3. Most of us don’t think much about the plights of illegal aliens. Now, while there are some in this group, like in a larger society, who are difficult to embrace (e.g., criminals), most of them came here illegally for the same reason most of our ancestors came legally—to provide a better life for their children.  As aliens in this world, what would it mean to live such good lives among them?

Notes

  1. We are to distinguish ourselves from the ways of the world: unethical manners in which businesses are conducted, immoral ways in which pleasures are pursued, heartless treatment of those who are deemed expendable and unimportant.
  2. While retreating from the ways of the world, we are also told to move forward to distinguish ourselves as aliens and strangers in the world, living good lives among the unbelievers and producing good deeds that would glorify God.
  3. Let’s suppose that you hired a person as a day-laborer, whom you guessed to be an illegal alien, to work in your yard. In that context, living such good lives would mean paying him a fair wage.  What do you think (James 5:1-6)?

EVENING REFLECTION

6bWe began the morning devotional talking about the fears of illegal aliens, especially those who have lived in the States for a long time.  Let’s not kid ourselves—we ourselves have plenty of fears of being found out.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the impostor syndrome—it’s when people believe their achievements are fraudulent, which causes  them to fear that one day, others might learn of their incompetence.  What fears do you secretly harbor?  I invite you to go to the Lord right now for a fast and long-lasting relief; and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with those who are trustworthy and truly care.

4 thoughts on “January 6, Friday

  1. Wouldn’t continuing to live in America (illegally) be a life continuing to live in sin as it is disrespecting and disobeying the laws of the land and not submitting to authority? (Assuming the laws of the land come in no conflict spiritually)

    Shouldn’t you rebuke this behavior just as the church does other sins that lack repentance?

    1. Hi “C”, thanks for your reply. Of course, who would argue against the view you expressed: that certainly is a theologically correct response. Howbeit, I am also coming from a pastoral perspective.

      I think Proverbs 6:30-1 may show how these two concerns intertwine: “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold . . .”

      It seems reasonable to view “not despising a hungry thief” as stemming from a pastoral concern. Not getting in the way of the law enforcing its rules against those who violate it reflects the judicial concern you addressed.

      I, for one, when you are looking into the eyes of illegal immigrants (mothers and fathers) who came here in search of “food,” no, I cannot just say, “Go home.” But if they get caught and end up paying a dear price for it, I wouldn’t blame our government for being unjust.

      Now, that isn’t even my first concern. In my reedited blog about Sanctuary City, I wrote the following:

      “What is certain though is what the cities of refuge, a temporary respite for those condemned under the Old Covenant, foreshadowed in the New (Heb. 9:15): “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Thus, to those seeking the protection of sanctuary city, I would share: “As long as we have not believed that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away . . . sins” (Heb. 9:27), we are actually running from a God of justice. You can stop running by placing your trust in Christ (Rom. 5:1). Whether to return to your country is something you ought to pray about, as you are being instructed in the Word, and then follow your conscience.”

      This may not be satisfying to youand I get that–but, that’s where I stand and what I have actually said to them. Consider today’s blog as well–going back for a higher reason, although to turn from a illegal move is as good as any. Thanks for reading the blog.

      1. Good thoughts 🙂

        ~I do agree that it is very important to be pastoral.

        I think the point I might add is that as Christians I believe God tells us to point people to the Gospel, it is more the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin. He can certainly use us in the conviction of sin, but we can also meet people where they are and show them love Christ also demonstrated for them and us on the cross even while they and we were still living in sin. 🙂

        Thank you for all your work on this and all these devotionals,
        -C

      2. Thank you for giving our readers an opportunity to see what a rational and civil discussion over volatile matters looks like (instead of trolling). May we uphold God’ justice while embodying His compassion towards all of us. Once again, thank you.

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