Bryan Fischer
What Jesus would say to an illegal alien
By Bryan Fischer
June 24, 2013

Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at "Focal Point"

The George Soros-funded Evangelical Immigration Table is beginning to unravel, as it most certainly should, as noted author Eric Metaxas has pulled out with word coming that others are likely to follow.

The EIT has claimed that evangelicals must support amnesty, and that any Christian who does not may be one of the goats Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 and thus may be headed "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

The EIT position turns biblical theology on its head by granting a huge reward – a guaranteed path to American citizenship – to those who are guilty of criminal trespass. Rewarding those who break the law is hardly an evangelical value.

In response to the EIT, it's worth asking if we can find a New Testament perspective, an explicitly Christian perspective, on this issue. I believe we can.

A young man by the name of Onesimus found Paul in Rome, where Paul was in prison for the crime of preaching about Christ. Onesimus became a Christ-follower through Paul's influence.

The sticky part for both Onesimus and Paul was that Onesimus had no legal right to be in Rome.

Onesimus was a slave, and had run away from his master, a man by the name of Philemon, who lived in the city of Colosse. (Christians and Christian influence ended the practice of slavery, but that's a topic for another day.)

So the challenge for Paul was quite simple: he had, in effect, an illegal alien looking to him for counsel. What, Onesimus, wondered, should he do? What was his moral obligation?

Paul was quite clear and direct: his moral responsibility was to obey the law and return home. In other words, it was his duty to self-repatriate.

Slave owners at that time in history had the power of life and death over runaway slaves, so for Onesimus to return entailed severe risks, just as illegal aliens may face today. Paul wrote a cover letter for Onesimus, a letter which became the New Testament book of Philemon, urging Philemon to receive him back, "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" through their common faith in Christ.

Onesimus was not to stay where he had no legal right to be; he was to return. Said Paul, "I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart" (v. 12).

The last phrase reveals that there was no lack of compassion in Paul's heart toward this undocumented immigrant. He wasn't motivated by some angry, nativist energy but by a sense of responsibility to counsel Onesimus to do the mature and noble thing. He loved Onesimus as he loved himself, and he describes Onesimus as "my child...whose father I became in my imprisonment" (v. 10).

In point of fact it was his very compassion for Onesimus which prompted him to urge Onesimus to return to his homeland. Compassion for others always includes appealing to them to do the right thing, and the right thing was for Onesimus to go back. He had no right to be where he was, and genuine compassion – not the soft, empty fake kind that passes for charity these days – directed Onesimus to act with maturity and strength.

As historian William Barclay put it, "Christianity is not out to help a man to escape his past and to run away from it; it is out to enable a man to face his past and to rise above it. Onesimus had run away. Well, then, he must not be allowed to evade the consequences of his misdeeds. He must go back, and he must face up to the consequences of what he did; and then he must accept the consequences and must rise above them. Christianity is never escape; Christianity is always conquest."

So what would Jesus say to an undocumented immigrant? Return home. Obey the law. Leave the place where you have no legal right to be and return to the place where you do.

And what should the Evangelical Immigration Table be saying, instead of trying to guilt-trip fellow evangelicals? The EIT should imitate the example of the apostle. "We are sending you back," they should say, because compassion compels us to.

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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