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UMNS Commentary: Love the Alien as Yourself

by Bishop Bruce R. Ough

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Char and I have been twice blessed. A couple of months ago, we announced the birth of our first grandchild - Dashua Henning Ough. He is growing and prospering.

Recently, our son Stuart and his wife Christine informed us they have been "matched" with a baby boy from Guatemala they will be adopting. He was born Feb. 13 to a single mother who made the difficult decision to place him for adoption. Stuart and Christine have named him Cailum Isaac Ough. They will receive this gift from God later in the summer.

Cailum will be an immigrant when he arrives in Indianapolis. The adoption completed, he will come as a tiny, legal citizen of the United States, but not as a native born citizen. I suspect some will view him as an alien, a foreigner; perhaps even "illegal," but Char and I love him already. Stuart and Christine already love him. Our hearts are already obedient to God's command to "love him like one of your own." (Leviticus 19:34, The Message)

Cailum's arrival in the midst of our country's heated and protracted debate on immigration reform has sharpened my prayer life. I am fervently praying that God will grant me, and all who claim the name of Christ, the same generosity of heart for all the aliens who reside among us that I have for Cailum. I fervently pray that Congress and state legislatures will act with hospitality, compassion and justice.

The issue of immigration evokes strong emotions and legitimate concerns. Today, 12 million undocumented persons live in this country. Most of them have come because, like you and me, they seek life and dignity for their families.

They grow, harvest and serve our food, clean our offices and hotels, and build our houses and highways. They often live in the seams and shadows of this country, even as they contribute, like every immigrant population before them, to the building of a strong and prosperous nation and better communities of faith.

I acknowledge and support the need to enforce the law and protect our country's borders, but I am deeply concerned that pending legislation, if enacted, would drive the undocumented population deeper into the shadows, cause undue suffering, and infringe upon basic human dignity and rights.

I am equally concerned about the proposed legislation that would criminalize persons and programs, including churches, that minister or offer assistance to the undocumented. We cannot be impeded in our ability to fulfill Christ's commission to make disciples of all persons.

Most grievous to me is the disregard, even disdain, that some proposals have for the children. Our country has a long held a commitment to caring for all children, regardless of race, culture or legal status. The children of undocumented immigrants are in this country through no choice of their own, yet they are also the future of this country and must be nurtured to realize their full potential.

Denying them access to social services and public education will serve only to undermine our future. It is always the children who suffer the most.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians reminds us, as Christians, that we were once without Christ, "being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, having no hope." But now, Paul adds, we are "no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with God's people and members of God's household." (Ephesians 2:12, 19)

This is our story. Each of us, apart from God's grace in Christ, is an alien. I pray that this story of ours will help us identify with the story of those who live as aliens among us. I also pray that the immigration reform, when finalized, will reflect the rich blend of compassion and mercy, solidarity and justice that is the core of the Methodist movement's passion for social holiness.

I urge you to join me in prayer and in solidarity with the immigrants who reside in the land. May we become the Church of Jesus Christ at its best. May we be obedient to God's command, as Leviticus 19:34 says in The Message to: "Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love the alien like one of your own."

*Ough is the resident bishop of the United Methodist Church's Ohio West Area. Bishop Ough is also a director of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. This commentary originally appeared in the area's newspaper, West Ohio News.

United Methodist News Service publishes commentaries on a wide range of issues and from a variety of viewpoints. Commentaries provided by United Methodist News Service do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United Methodist Church.


 
 
 

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Date posted: Jun 13, 2006