Whether we like it or not, they’re coming.
According to the caravan organizer, there’s about 7,500 people working their way north through Mexico toward our southern border. Most of the group is from Honduras and El Salvador, and they’ve made no secret about their intentions to head toward America.
The political rhetoric surrounding this story seems to intensify with every step they make. What should Christian public discourse sound like in the midst of this national conversation? Here’s 5 key points to remember:
We are first and foremost Christ’s ambassadors.
Our primary citizenship is in heaven. As followers of Jesus, we’ve been clearly tasked with the role of being His ambassadors to those around us (2 Corinthians 5:20). That means we quite literally are speaking for Jesus when we discuss topics like this. That responsibility should weigh heavily on our souls. But most importantly, this heavenly appointment compels us to conform to His expectations regardless of our political affiliations.
We must seek and speak truth.
Far too often, we let political pundits and online editorials shape our thinking. As people who believe in Truth, we must ensure that we’re working hard to be people who cling to truth in situations like this. Even when opinions are rampant and facts seem elusive.
But gratefully there are easily identifiable facts behind this story. Current homicide rates in Honduras and El Salvador are the highest ever recorded in Central America. The capitals of those nations are among the 10 most dangerous cities on the planet. Gang violence, extortion, and sexual violence have been on the rise for years. From 2011 to 2016, the number of people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala seeking refuge in surrounding countries has increased 2,249%.
55% of the workforce in Honduras is underemployed. The Associated Press recently uncovered startling corruption when they reported that the head of the national police in Honduras helped a cartel leader deliver nearly a ton of cocaine in 2013. And the former first lady of Honduras was arrested on corruption charges in February.
These statistics are just the beginning. Without a doubt, life in Honduras and El Salvador is dangerous and horrifying. Masses of people aren’t walking to America for a change of pace. They’re legitimately fleeing for their lives in desperation.
We must use words that demonstrate love and compassion for this group.
As ambassadors for Christ, our words matter a great deal. Time and again, the Bible instructs us to demonstrate our faith in Jesus through our love. Jesus specifically said that He wants us to be identified as His disciples through our love for one another. He also said the most important thing for us to do is love God and love our neighbor. And He commanded us to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner. His brother told us to care for orphans and widows. These are all acts of love born out of the undeserved grace we’ve received from Jesus.
Therefore our public discourse about the migrant caravan must be bathed in love and compassion. The headlines of our conversations should speak of God’s mercy and grace. It’s not that we can’t talk about laws and government authority. There’s certainly a time for that. But condemnation through law separated from grace and love is antithetical to the message of the Gospel.
After all, we should understand better than anyone else that we aren’t getting what we deserve under the law. Jesus made sure of that on the cross.
We must demonstrate a desire to ensure they’re cared for.
Apathy isn’t Biblical. Neither is being dismissive. Paul beautifully illustrates this in Romans 12. We’re counter-intuitively supposed to bless those who persecute us. Feed our enemies. Refrain from taking revenge. How much more should we do for those fleeing violence and economic struggle in Central America?
We must tread lightly and carefully when discussing proposed political solutions.
When I discussed this topic on my radio show, some jumped to wildly dramatic conclusions at this point.
Asserting that followers of Jesus should demonstrate a desire to ensure that the migrant caravan is cared for does not imply any particular political solution. On the contrary, I’m not advocating how this group should be cared for. Rather, I’m simply advocating that they be cared for.
In fact, Christians can legitimately disagree regarding how to address the crowd of people headed our way. Maybe we need to increase foreign aid to Honduras and El Salvador to prevent the need for future caravans. Or perhaps a joint refugee camp could be established in partnership with Mexico and the United States. Maybe some of them should be granted asylum in our country. None of these ideas are inherently unbiblical.
Pastor and author Tim Keller summed it up best in a recent New York Times editorial:
…most political positions are not matters of biblical command but of practical wisdom. This does not mean that the church can never speak on social, economic and political realities, because the Bible often does…The biblical commands to lift up the poor and to defend the rights of the oppressed are moral imperatives for believers. For individual Christians to speak out against egregious violations of these moral requirements is not optional.
However, there are many possible ways to help the poor. Should we shrink government and let private capital markets allocate resources, or should we expand the government and give the state more of the power to redistribute wealth? Or is the right path one of the many possibilities in between? The Bible does not give exact answers to these questions for every time, place and culture.
May the Lord grant us all the wisdom to be effective ambassadors for the Kingdom. And may He provide these desperate people with the help they need.