Who is our neighbor?1
“Quite simply, there are no limits: our neighbor is defined very widely, and it does not matter if she is merely poor, nor destitute, nor that he is of questionable morals, nor even that the neighbor in need brought his condition upon himself through poor decisions." -Jonathan Edwards, 18th Century Theologian
Last Sunday, we continued in our UNITED series from the book of Romans. Our scripture for the day exhorted the church to love our neighbor:
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)
As I said on Sunday, our pastoral team has done study on what the term neighbor means; it far extends our comfort zone, and it is not as simple as loving the person right next door. Although the definition of the word does include that person, loving your neighbor also includes immigrants, regardless of legal status.
Our word study on the Hebrew term “sojourner” led us to the conclusion to interpret neighbor as to encompass all people within our city.
Dr. Tim Keller, one of NY Times best selling authors of numerous books, is both a pastor and a theologian. In his book Generous Justice, he affirms this interpretation.
Keller notes that he has translated the Hebrew word gare as “immigrant” (rather than “alien”, “foreigner”, or "sojourner", as used by other translators) because it “more accurately conveys to modern readers the meaning of the word". The word literally translates as ‘the outsider living in your midst’, and Keller uses it regularly throughout his book precisely because the Old Testament repeatedly highlights the immigrant as one of those to whom justice is due. In fact, God saw fit to mention them 93 times in the Old Testament.
"Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19 ESV)
"do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:10 ESV)
I want to encourage you to pick up some books and resources on this subject and begin to pray for our political leaders on this issue for immigration reform. Note, not every idea of every person in our recommendations is something that we would agree with, nor fully support. I invite you to begin to start the journey to explore more on this subject and build your library and open your heart to love the people within our city, as the church of Jesus Christ.
Here are a few resources and websites to better help inform you.
For further discussion on the issue please email Pastor Jonathan your questions.