Ask yourself: Who would Jesus deport?

1/2/2008

By Rev. Sally Bevill
Guest Columnist

I was organizing my office this week. I have various bookshelves in different areas with a variety of religious books, study guides, commentaries, etc. On one wall I have my immigration law books and manuals.

Over the years I have collected training materials and books to help practitioners understand the complicated immigration system. I also keep my books on social justice and human rights on this same wall. On these same shelves, I also keep my collection of Bibles. It seems an appropriate location because Jesus is still the greatest teacher of immigration law and justice. Jesus is my lens for seeing, understanding and interpreting the laws of our land.

I was reading an article just the other day by a Japanese immigrant woman who is a United Methodist pastor in Connecticut. She poses the question of what Jesus must think of our immigration laws and policies. I often wonder to myself who Jesus would deport?

Would it be the young man who was brought here as a child when his mother had to escape prostitution to survive and feed her three children? He has lived 20 years in this great country of ours. He graduated with honors, speaks perfect English and is married with a new baby. He was never given the opportunity to legalize his status, and now he sits in jail waiting to be deported to a country he doesn’t even remember. The police arrested him for a broken tail light.

Maybe Jesus would deport the mother and wife who watched her husband and son be gunned down by rebels during a civil war. She came here to seek safety but was denied her claim for asylum. After living here for 10 years she is in jail waiting to be deported to her country where the village leaders will kill her upon her return. She was arrested when a drunk driver ran into the back of her car.

The Rev. Taka Ishii reminds us in her writings that Pilate must have assumed that Jesus was before him because he had pressed the boundaries of his power too far and had broken too many laws. Pilate was wrong. Jesus knew no boundaries. He ate with sinners, he healed the outsiders and those rejected by society. He ignored the rules of social position and privilege. Jesus offended people because he refused to recognize the boundaries of Gentile and Jew, slave and free, documented and undocumented, foreigner and citizen. Ishii reminds us that this is the nature of God’s reign, a reign that does not belong to the world, but a reign which most certainly belongs in this world.

Sometimes the truth that Jesus offers us is offensive. It challenges our comfort zones and encourages us to be liberators by living the truth of the Gospel message. Jesus tells us that the truth shall set us free. To be set free we must first realize that we are in bondage. To know the truth we must be a companion with Christ. We must join his mission, travel on his journey and welcome the outcast. We must be willing to live beyond the categories and boundaries that limit the liberating love of Christ.

Bevill serves as pastor of Beauvoir UMC in Biloxi and is involved in Seashore District Hispanic ministry.