Love Thy Neighbor
Info: Rev. Elizabeth Murray is a Provisional Deacon in the South Carolina Annual Conference with a ¾ appointment as Director of Hispanic Ministries at Mt Hebron UMC in West Columbia, SC and ¼ time under Office of Congregational Development of the South Carolina Annual Conference
When you hear about immigration in the media, what comes to mind? One response is, “We cannot condone people crossing the border illegally. The United States has laws for a reason.” I have heard this opinion a lot. People who hold this opinion are right: we should not condone people crossing the border without proper documentation. If I say I am in favor of immigration reform or caring for the immigrant, I am not condoning the breaking of United States laws. Crossing the border is a dangerous feat: hundreds die in the desert each year, women are raped, children are separated from their families, and desperate migrants succumb to drug traffickers. I do not want our brothers and sisters to break laws and risk their lives to come to this country. I am personally in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. But let me reiterate: When I write in favor of immigration reform or caring for the immigrant in our midst, I am not condoning the breaking of laws. To argue that someone who is standing up for issues surrounding immigration reform means that they are in favor of people breaking the law is to miss the point of the argument. So, what is the point? First, the point is recognizing that there is a problem. We do not have to agree on what the solution is, but I hope we can agree that there is a problem with our immigration system. Second, and more importantly, I think the point of the argument is to love our immigrant brothers and sisters. Not only does God tell us to love each other, but also commands love and care for the widow, orphan, and immigrant—the most vulnerable people in society. Loving our immigrant neighbor does not just take place when churches get wrapped up in immigration policy - many times advocacy arises from relationships built with others. One of my mentors once wrote to me in an email, “Just be yourself and love people. Everything else will come naturally.” God loved us first, so that we may be relationship with God, but also so we can emulate God’s love to other people. Be open to how the Holy Spirit guides you, your church, and the people with whom you are in relationships. What does loving the immigrant look like? At its core, loving the immigrant looks like loving any friend or family member—treating them with dignity and respect. There are ways in which you and your church can reach out and welcome immigrants in your community, such as hosting English classes, providing meals to families, or helping someone open a bank account. Pray and discern where you think God is leading you or your congregation. Instead of debating about immigration reform that may or may not happen, let us pray for ways to honor God through loving and welcoming the immigrant.
Discussion Questions: Who are the neighbors that God is calling you to serve. How can you best show the love of God toward them?
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