Elders: Glenn and Doug
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|God's View of Illegal Immigration|
|Written by Albert Cerussi|
|Saturday, 30 October 2010 13:55|
Okay, so maybe I oversold the content of this just a little – this is not really an exposition on the Biblical framework of national sovereignty and the legality issues of immigration (sorry). If there is serious interest, let me know and maybe I will write something about it another time.
Now that I have your attention, what about discussing an illegal alien (or equivalent) who is central to the Biblical story of redemption? Might that be interesting to you? Three guesses as to who it is … two … one … give up? Okay then.
The person in question is none other than the father of our faith: Abraham. Yes, that Abraham (aka Abram). Father of Isaac. Grandfather of Jacob. Husband of Sarah. Yep, him.
Abraham was, technically speaking, an illegal alien in Canaan. He certainly was an alien (i.e., a foreigner) by his own admission (Genesis 23:4). How so? Remember, Abraham was not from the region of Canaan (Genesis 11:31). In Genesis 23 the locals are Hittites, and Abram certainly did not have any blood roots in that community. But why does this matter?
Abraham could not have owned land in Canaan because he was a foreigner; he was “illegal” in that sense. He would have to remain a sojourner (again see Genesis 23:4) – one with no permanent home. In fact, the word for “sojourner” is the Hebrew word “ger” – one frequently used to describe non-Jews in Israel later on. A “ger” was a non-blood relative, one dependent upon the hospitality of the local residents. In other words, Abraham had no legal right to be there per se – and he certainly had no right to own land in Canaan (that is as far as the Hittites were concerned). Yet we know God was going to give him land in Canaan. How would this happen?
He could not have inherited the land – he was not of Canaanite lineage. Abraham also did not intermarry with the Canaanites– thus he could not join a local tribe by marriage. I suppose he could have taken land by force, but that was not Abraham’s style.
The only way for Abraham to legally become a landowner in Canaan was to purchase land. The locals were under no obligation to sell land to him. However, we see in Genesis 23:14-16 that after some negotiations, Abraham does indeed purchase land for the burial of his beloved wife, Sarah. He became a legal land owner in Canaan. This, incidentally, was a reason he would not accept the burial land for free (Genesis 23:13). To avoid disputes later, Abraham wanted to be recognized as the land owner – a “ger” or a foreigner no more, as it were.
But how did that happen? Why sell land to a foreigner? An illegal alien?
That, my friend, is the moral of the story. You see, the locals greatly respected Abraham. They called him a “prince of God” (Genesis 23:6). While we don’t really know exactly what that means, we do know it was a token of respect for Abraham. It was an admission that they honored Abraham. I’m sure that they would have found his faith a little odd (“how many gods to you have?” … “oh, only one!” …). Despite this, the Hittites welcomed Abraham into the community anyway, likely because he was a good man worthy of respect. We know God certainly thought Abraham was an honorable man.
What does this mean for us? Abraham was placed in Canaan and he served as a positive witness per se for the Lord. You could, perhaps, call him a “missionary.” He had “incarnated” into the local region, as it were. And while we know Abraham did not share the Hittite faith, he nevertheless earned their respect. The early Messianic believers were similarly held in high esteem in Jerusalem (Acts 5:13), even though some of the residents did not perhaps share their view of Messiah Yeshua.
So then let me ask you: in your community are you a man/woman worthy of respect? Do your co-workers and neighbors consider you to be honorable? Mind you I didn’t ask if they “agree” with you – I asked if they respect you. Even when some of the local Jews did not agree with Peter and crew in Acts 5 – they had earned some respect.
This is an encouragement to believers to find ways to integrate respectfully into society – not separate from it. Find ways to be respected by your local culture, without being transformed by that culture, but rather being transformed by the Gospel of Yeshua. Note that although not all believers will be Elders in a congregation, Paul certainly thought that Elders should be “thought of well” by others (1 Timothy 3:7). Thus, having “cred” with the rest of society is important.
This is also a cautionary note to some believers today who revel in being hated by others in culture. Yes it is true that some will hate us because of the Gospel (Luke 6:22-23). But let’s have a reality check: if people hate you because you are mean-spirited, arrogant, and unloving, I would not take great pride in that. If you suffer for these qualities, and not for the Gospel, you need to re-think your ways. Please do not misunderstand me – I am not suggesting that you become a “pleaser of men.” Rather, let your light shine so that others in your society can see the glory of God. Id encourage you to take a look at this book to get some sense how America looks at Christians (N.B. the book does not address Messianic believers per se) – this should be required reading as far as I am concerned.
Let Abraham be a lesson and a model for us today. Be a man or a woman worthy of respect – even if some don’t respect you, don’t give them a character-based reason for it Integrate yourself into you community and demonstrate in word and deed that there is a reason to believe the Gospel.