Cameron Ventura, Immigration Activist
In John Calvin’s “Institutes,” he says the following,
“Now it is very clear what our duty is: Thus, if the Lord has committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps to us, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them. But no danger will hurt us, say they, unless it is fatal, and in this case, it is beyond remedies. But what if the dangers are not fatal because the Lord has provided you with remedies for repulsing and overcoming them?” (John Calvin, Institutes, 1:216 (1.17.4).
But what is the duty the Lord has committed to us? For the believer, the answer to this question should guide how we organize our lives, expand our resources, and fill our prayers. For each of us, this question can be answered in two ways: one being the generic answer that is the same for all of us, the other being the specific calling given by the Lord to the individual. I will focus on the former and hopefully allow the Father to work the latter in as He wills.
In Luke 4, Jesus opens the scroll and reads from Isaiah. He uses this passage to definitively state the purpose for which he has come and to set the tone for the rest of his life. As you read the following passage, I encourage you to do so from the perspective of a regular visitor to the synagogue, living an ordinary day. Put yourself on the floor of that room and consider what goes through your mind as you hear these words. Listen to what defines the person and ministry of Jesus and evaluate within yourself if his message is compelling. Does this sound like something in which you would want to partake? This is the work of being a disciple, living out the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When I look around today at who fits the profile of our modern poor, captive, blind, and oppressed – I see those to whom I am called. The call of the gospel isn’t merely intellectual – it is practical. As I meditate and dwell on those descriptors, the poor, captive, blind, and oppressed, I can’t get away from thinking about the immigrant community. Just or unjust, our current situation encourages poverty of immigrants through not allowing them the protection of receiving earned wages, fair housing costs, and theft protection. Our situation holds this community captive both by forcing them into the shadows, not allowing them to become part of the society in which they have often lived for years. We blind them by limiting them to jobs least likely to lead to their eviction rather than allowing them to work according to their skills. We oppress them by fighting against them, rather than for them.
As Christians, we must realize that our primary calling is to the Kingdom of God, not to any kingdom of man. The illegality of their location is infinitely inferior to their person-hood.
The government of Christ’s day provided no opportunity for the average person to impact policy. Modern day USA provides the average citizen with unthinkable influence when viewed from the perspective of world history. To tie back in with the initial quote from Calvin, democratic government is one (though not the primary) remedy provided by the Lord for repulsing and overcoming. With our political structure, the Christian community has a responsibility to advocate for the marginalized. It isn’t okay for us to see injustice and rest our inaction on the presence of the law. These laws do not uphold justice, they provide a stronghold for injustice. A stronghold that Christians can’t hide behind in the face of Luke 4. Yes, Christ’s message was spiritual – but it wasn’t spiritual alone. Yes, our Christianity is spiritual – but it must flesh itself out in the physical.
Join me in praying for those who are poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. The immigrant community is by no means the only expression of this, but it clearly is one expression of it. May we be bearers of the Lord’s favor, not merely recipients of it.
Grace and peace.
Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a biblical perspective.