Loving God but Hating His Image, or How Our Attitude Toward Illegal Immigrants is Reprehensible


Photo Courtesy of Voice of America

This article is not about how the U.S. should handle the massive influx of children illegally crossing the boarder.  I do not pretend to understand all of the variables involved in this complex issue and it is not my intention to argue in favor of any particular form of legislation or promote any one solution.  In fact, I’m not interested in politics at all (at least within the context of what I’m about to say).  This article is about our attitude toward thousands of impoverished at-risk youth living in conditions so bad they’re willing to risk their lives just to make it to our boarder.  More specifically, it’s about Christians who allegedly love God yet make disparaging, heartless, and down right selfish comments about illegal immigrants.  It’s about those who claim to know the Lord but, through their actions (or lack thereof) and attitudes hate His divine image. 

Let us begin with a self examination.  Do you find yourself looking down on those who illegally cross our boarders?  Do you find them an inconvenience or a nuisance?  Do you resent them?  Do you find yourself indifferent to their plight?  Do you feel they are underserving of your charity?  Are you angry or embittered by their presence?  Do they annoy you?  Do you believe their plight is no business of yours? . . . If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s important for you to realize these feelings stand in complete opposition to the Gospel.  They are selfish, prideful, heartless feelings.  They are, in short, sinful attitudes unbefitting a follower of Christ (oh yes, I went there).

Let’s review three crucial points of theology to help us understand why:

 (1) Man Is Made in the Image of God

Christians believe every man, woman, and child has objective value, dignity, and worth because everyone–no matter their age, race, culture, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation–is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28; Wisdom 2:23).

(2) We are Commanded to Love our Neighbor

Christ states that the first and greatest commandment is to Love God, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).  Interestingly, our Lord follows this by stating that the second commandment is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.‘  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:39-40).  Why is loving our neighbor with all of our might like loving God with all of our being?  Because man is made in the image of God.  Therefore, anyone who truly loves God will truly love His image and likeness.  This is why Jesus also taught that to discard, belittle, or ignore those in need is to discard, belittle and ignore Him.

(3) If We Don’t Love our Neighbor, We Don’t Know God

The Bible teaches it is impossible to know God–to have saving faith or a personal relationship with Him–and harbor ill-will or hate in our heart toward our neighbor (I John 2: 9-11; 4: 20-21).  St. James, echoing the teaching of our Lord, states that a faith without love (i.e., works) is dead (Matt. 7:17-23; 25:31-46; James 2:14-26).

Take a moment and seriously dwell upon these truths.  In fact, take time to look up the passages I’ve cited and let them sink in.  Then, ask yourself if your attitude toward illegal immigrants (not the impersonal concept “illegal immigration” but the actual people: the helpless children, the father’s desperate to be with their families, the women fleeing sex traffickers . . . ) is truly a Christian one.  Forget your political affiliation, forget your nationality, forget your social status.  If you profess to be a Christian you claim, first and foremost, to be a citizen of the City of God; a part of the Kingdom of Heaven; a member of the Body of Christ.  Your deepest and truest loyalties transcend all worldly categories and all worldly affiliations.  Your chief duty is to love, to serve, and to lay down your life for your neighbor (including your enemies).  This is your chief duty precisely because the greatest commandment is to Love God; but it is impossible to truly love God and hate His image.

As I peruse Facebook statuses, read comments on news articles, and listen in on conversations, I grow disheartened.  I am appalled and embarrassed by the reprehensible attitudes of professed Christians toward illegal immigrants.  I feel disgusted by those who, in virtue of their attitudes, fail to empathize with or care for those suffering and in dire need of help; and I wonder how long we shall ignore the sound of their voices screaming for help?

My American brothers and sisters, please stop.  Stop speaking heartlessly; stop acting selfishly; stop worshiping your country; stop discriminating based on nationality; stop discarding, belittling, and ignoring your neighbors; stop your crummy attitudes.  My dear brothers and sisters, love your neighbor as you love yourself; for without love you are nothing.



Random Musings: The Value of a Sex Slave

1) what is the value of a sex slave?

2) picture in your mind a young girl, sold by her parents into the sex industry when she was but eleven years of age; her body and her mind ravished by drugs and hordes of foul men.  Perhaps the value of such a girl is merely a matter of utility.  If this is the case, she is only as valuable as she is useful.  But what is her use to society?  She is uneducated, she is addicted to drugs, she is psychologically damaged . . . how useful to society is such a person?  Perhaps, her usefulness is tied to the only job she has ever known?  Perhaps the only thing which shall ever define her is one word: prostitute.  Is this her identity?  Is this her fate?

3) tell me, dear ethicist, does such a girl cease to have value when she ceases to be useful? Do your ethical theories align you with the slave drivers–those dealers in human flesh?  When the slaver deems his product useless, the product losses its value–and it is only fitting, in the mind of such a business man, to destroy what has become a worthless commodity.  After all, this is only good business.

4) how wretched is this thought!  How degrading!  How base!  That a human life should be reduced to mere utility . . . but, if God is dead, if we are simply the endless motion of atoms, what else shall we conclude?

5) I thank my Father in heaven, the Creator and sustainer of all life, that such is not the fate of this young sex slave.  For she is made in your ineffable  image–in the likeness of Beauty, and Life, and Goodness Himself.  I thank you that she has value and dignity–that she is worthy of love and compassion–that she is worthy of our respect.  For her identity, her nature, will never be destroyed because her circumstances do not define her.  For as long as she has being, no amount of torture or abuse can destroy the image of the invisible God that constitutes her essence.

6) I extol the wonders of our Lord who loves this young girl, who bled for this girl, who died for this girl–that she might have life.  Truly you ground our being; our very existence depends upon You.  Truly, it is in you that human beings find their eternal value; and, in turn, their usefulness.

Christianity and Wealth, or An Unoccupied Conscience Begets an Occupied Street

Picture courtesy of http://www.globalexchange.org

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults [lit. blasphemes, taunts, defies] his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him. – Proverbs 14:31 (ESV with my own clarification added)

What is extremely interesting about the above passage is that in the King James Bible, the order of the last part is reversed: “…but he that honoureth Him [God] hath mercy upon the poor.” The same thing happens if we turn to the Septuagint translation (verse 32 instead of 31); “He who oppresses the poor provokes his Maker, but he who honors Him [God] has mercy upon a poor man.”

What are we to make of the discrepancy between the ESV and the KJV? Do we prefer the idea that God is honored when we aid the poor, or that if we honor God we will naturally aid in the poor? The truth is, both translations are not only correct, but in harmony with each other. Later in the Bible we read that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength” as the greatest commandment. But then Jesus says, “And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38, emphasis added). In other words, if we honor and love God then we will honor and love our neighbors, and in honoring and loving our neighbors we will inevitably be honoring and loving God. We cannot act in isolation on the two commandments; to perform one is to perform the other.

Thus, if we truly love and honor God then we will aid the poor and in aiding the poor we will be loving God and honoring God. One could say that the KJV translation points to a disposition that we should have towards God, one that loves Him and honors Him as a condition of our soul (the greatest commandment). The ESV then would take this disposition and put it into action (the second greatest commandment). From this perspective if we are to help the poor we must love God, but in helping the poor our love for God will also grow.

Among Christians, then, we are without an excuse when it comes to corporate greed. If we follow Christ and make millions, while we are not called to give up everything, we are called to aid the poor and not to oppress them. This transcends the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which are seemingly more and more occupied by disenchanted students who want bigger TVs and don’t care one bit about true social justice. For Christian business owners, they must make sure they are engaging in ethical business practices, from how they treat their own employees to how they are supplied.

Consider you’re a Christian and the owner (or a powerful executive) of a chocolate company. Would you make up excuses for your company purchasing chocolate from farms that use child slaves? Or would you find an ethical source of chocolate, even if it meant cutting into your own income to do so? Or would you take it a step further to shed light on the fact that numerous farms around the world that allow us to cheaply satisfy a sweet tooth comes at an ethical cost of using slave labor? Would you cut even more into your millions of dollars in bonuses to help end the plight of the poor? Or would you argue that, “This is simply how business must be conducted” and move about your day, convincing yourself that the ends (using your vast sums of wealth for your church) justify the means (child slaves in brutish conditions)?

How does a Christian CEO display his love of God if he knowingly uses slave labor (or mistreated workers) to gain his product cheaply? Greed, simply put, has no place in any business where a Christian makes high-level decisions. While salaries must sometimes be cut, workers laid off, and overhead reduced, there are ways to accomplish all of this without selling one’s soul. As a Christian, one is simply without an excuse when it comes to oppressing the poor.

But what about non-Christians? When I bring the above issues up to conservative Christians, I’m often met with, “Yes, but that’s a Christian mandate, not one to companies. We shouldn’t expect corporations to act like Christians because it’s a secular world.” Mind you, this argument often comes from those who would seek to see abortion ended, homosexual marriages forbidden, and the Ten Commandments on every single government building in existence. In short, it creates a contradictory and conflicted message. Why is it okay to speak out against abortion or homosexual marriage on religious grounds, but we must adopt a secular attitude towards aiding the poor (the opposite is true for progressive Christians). While I’m not asking for Christians to take up the hammer and sickle (because Communism, according to the late Francis Schaeffer, is simply a Christian heresy) nor am I asking for a theocracy, I am asking them to take up their cross and follow Christ, which includes helping the poor and oppressed.

This means that Christians ought to seek out legislation that helps the oppressed, such as those trapped in slavery. We should support legislation that punishes corporations that use or willfully ignore where their products come from (such as Hershey’s Chocolate or Godiva). We shouldn’t do this because we’re Democrats or Republicans, or because we’re Conservatives or Liberals, but because we’re Christians. If we wish to honor God then we will seek to end the oppression of the poor. That’s not politics, it’s Scripture.

Into the Valley of Darkness

What hope is there in this world? More specifically, what hope is there in this world outside of Christ?

Somewhere in the world tonight, a child cowers in fear as he hides from his drunken father. In his drunken rage he is looking to beat someone down and since the mother has already escaped his grasp, he searches for his son. In this sickening world, he will find his son, and he will throw his son around, slap him, punch him, and leave him bloodied and bruised. What do we say to this little boy?

Sometime tonight a father is going to wake up to police at his door, telling him that his son has died in a car crash. This child he has been blessed with, struggled with, and fought to bring up in this world and keep safe will no longer be with him. He will not see his son’s wedding, he will not see his son graduate from college; his son will be nothing more than a memory to him at that point. What do we say to this grieving father?

Across town, a young mother to be discovers she’s pregnant. When she goes to the father, he refuses to take any responsibility. Her church ostracizes her when they find out and her parents tell her she can’t stay in the house if she has that baby. With not other options she walks toward the abortion clinic. As she stands in front of it, hopeless and alone, what do we say to her?

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