Bible instructs Christians to care for immigrants — especially now

The congregation I serve is preparing to move into a newly constructed sanctuary for worship this summer because we have outgrown our current space. So last Sunday we read from the Hebrew scripture, I Kings 8, Solomon’s dedication prayer for the temple. King Solomon was known for his wisdom, and in fact, he asked God to hear the prayers not only of his people Israel, but also to hear the prayers of the immigrant, the foreigner who prays toward God’s house. This is one of many places in Holy Scripture where we are instructed to care for foreigners.

In Jesus Christ’s first announcement of his ministry, he quotes Isaiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Christ also said that how we treat the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, and the imprisoned is how we treat him!

So there are some people claiming Christian faith who are not listening to the message of Christ and his compassion for people who are suffering. This is terribly disturbing because of the misrepresentation of the Christian faith. Yet even more disturbing is the irreparable damage being done to little children! It is not enough to stop this government-sanctioned child abuse in separating children from their parents on our borders, but we must keep demanding justice for the nearly 3,000 children who have already been abused by this system.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) do lasting damage to people. The toxic stress created by being separated from family, by living in abject poverty, by living in a war zone, by witnessing violence inside or outside the home, among other stressors, wreaks havoc on a developing brain – physically and psychologically. Time does not heal all wounds, as we wish it would. In fact, the toxic stress of ACEs can be passed to the next generation, even though we humans have much built-in resilience and with proper help can do much recovery, but it is expensive.

According to a CDC study of 2012, just one year of maltreatment in the life of a child will create extra costs over a lifetime of $210,012 per child for recovery. Multiply that number by 3,000 children and we are spending at least 630 million to recover from this cruel effort at tighter border control. This number does not account for all the health and human services expenses for management of these children in detention. Compassion for children should motivate all of us – no matter our faith perspective. But if compassion is lacking, consider the long-term expense of additional healthcare, loss of productivity, welfare, criminal justice, and special education required by those who have been mistreated.

The verse in Romans 13 that follows the quote by Attorney General Jeff Sessions about obedience to authorities says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” It is love for their children that motivates immigrant parents to risk their lives at the border to enter in hope of escaping poverty and danger. If only we might put ourselves in their shoes! Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” That golden rule needs a big comeback in our land – now!

Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert, pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church, 12705 State Road 64 E., Lakewood Ranch, can be reached by calling 941-753-7778 or e-mailing edeibert@mindspring.com