Social Action


When Jesus taught his followers how to speak to the God he said, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

We often miss the power in that phrase. We simply recite the line without thinking. We view it as merely a request for Jesus to “come back.” We remove any meaning from God’s Kingdom and God’s will by treating them as unknowns. We make this into a prayer that we say with nothing to do with how we live.

But Jesus did not intended for this to be a throw away line. Jesus wanted this prayer to mold and guide us.

God has given us the Scriptures to reveal God’s character and God’s will. We have been given teachings on the Kingdom of God, and creative writing on what God’s Kingdom will look like when fully established on Earth. God’s will and Kingdom are not completely fuzzy concepts. Scripture reveals enough about God’s will and Kingdom for us to recognize when they are being realized in the world.

In addition to the Scriptures, the Spirit of God guides us in our understanding of God’s will and provides relational knowledge of God. The more that we know God, the more we will know what God wills in the world.

When we pray we are not just asking God to take care of everything, though there are situations when that is all that we feel we can do.  When we pray we are both asking for God’s intervention and aligning ourselves with God. As beings created in the image of God we have the ability, and responsibility, to act in a manner consistent with the will of God. While there are some glorious times of supernatural intervention, the answer to prayer normally comes in the form of a person. In other words, when we pray for God’s will to be done and Kingdom to come on Earth – our actions need to join with our request.

That brings us to a cup of water…  a fitting case study on World Water Day.

Chances are if you are reading this blog, you can easily get a cup of water in the next 10 minutes. That is not the reality for many people in our world. In fact, somewhere around one in three people alive today do not have access to safe drinking water. I do not mean that they have to wait in a line for it – I mean it is not an option for them. That reality translates into several tragedies, including around 4,000 children dying each day.

Does that look like the will of the God that is revealed in Jesus and the Spirit? Is that the Kingdom of God that we see revealed in the Scriptures? I think not.

When this currently reality does not fit the Kingdom of God we are called to pray for God’s will to be done, for there to be a new reality which reflects the Kingdom of God. We need to pray for God to intervene on behalf of people without water.

In addition to praying for the Kingdom, we are called to act according to the Kingdom. We are called to discern what direct actions we can take for the sake of God’s will being done on Earth.  There are other times when we are called to take a supportive role for those who are taking direct action. We need to intervene on behalf of people without water.

Act today! Follow this link to bring water to thousands of people by repairing existing water wells: The Adventure Project

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The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

In my first post on Immigration, I addressed the theological reasons why Christians should engage in immigration issues.

In my second post on Immigration, I addressed some common sentiments about immigration by clarifying the historical and present immigration realities.

In this third post I will address what is being proposed in Comprehensive Immigration Reform. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about this term. We must have an accurate understanding of the proposal if we are going to evaluate the proposal. It is not as dramatic as what we hear on cable news shows, but it is a realistic plan.

Four General Components of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

1. Reduce the backlogs for family immigration.

The waiting lists for people seeking to reunite with their families in the United States are tremendous. A spouse is on a  waiting list for at least six months. Children are on waiting list for at least three years, and if that child gets married the wait becomes decades long. A nation that values families must do better than that. Around one-third of undocumented immigrants have a family member here legally. Part of the problem is our current laws do not meet the current needs.

2. Make it more difficult to enter and work in the USA.

C.I.R. is not a call for “open borders.” Current reform proposals include making our borders more secure. These proposals also recognize the reality that most immigrants come here for work. Our current policies make it very difficult to work here legally, but fairly easy to work here illegally. Think about your Social Security Card – you could have made that on your old Vic-20 computer in 1985! We should require more secure documentation for employment. We also need to hold employers responsible for who they hire. Today, enforcement of employment laws  almost exclusively means deporting the workers. We must make hiring undocumented workers too risky and too costly for employers. Until we do enforce our hiring laws for employers, there will be jobs for undocumented workers.  And as long as there are jobs here, people will come – it does not matter how big the wall is.

3. Make it easier to enter and work in the USA in ways that benefit the USA.

While entering the United States because of family is difficult, entering the country legally for work is an even greater challenge. Employment Green Cards are given primarily to upper skill level positions. However, the employment market is very clear that we need more low-skill laborers.  Many of those roles are already filled by people who are here illegally. It would benefit everyone to have those roles filled by citizens or legalized immigrants. We need to adjust the laws to fit our reality and the needs of our economy. Many people say that we also need more openings for high-skilled workers. When an American high-tech firm can not find an American citizen for a position, and they can not bring the right person in on a Green Card, then they must either eliminate that position or employ that person in another country. Neither of those options are good for America.

4. Establish a way for immigrants who are here illegally to earned legalization. While there are variations of this plan looks like, most C.I.R advocates envision: a reasonable fine, a background check, temporary status during the process, and placement in line behind the family backlog.  C.I.R. is not a call for amnesty. It is not a proposal to forgetting that laws were broken. This proposal includes openness, penalty, and a process that is fair to other legal immigrants and citizens.  It is also far more realistic than deporting everyone who is here illegally today. The “put them on a bus” approach is not practically possible or economically feasible, and it’s impact upon families and the economy would be devastating. Earned legalization is the best way forward.

Thanks again to Matt Soerens for clarifying these issues.

Our opinion on Comprehensive Immigration Reform is shaped by our understanding of the history and present reality of immigration in America. Below are some popular statements in the immigration discussion. I have said some of them in the past. More accurate observations on immigration follow each statement.

“My ancestors came here legally, they should too.”

Immigration laws are radically different from when most of our ancestors came to the United States. We basically had open boarders until the 1880s, when the first restrictions, targeted at Chinese immigrants, went into place. While our families are full of inspiring stories of immigration, most of them do not include the current legal barriers. Now, though, our laws are very restrictive and make it impossible for many immigrants to enter lawfully.

“We already have good laws, they just need to be followed and enforced.”

We do have laws, and some of them were good when they were originally written. However, many of them need updated to match our current reality. That is the point of reform, to make it better! Part of the problem of enforcement is that the current laws do not match the current needs of the nation.

There are four ways to enter the nation on a green card. All of them have significant weaknesses. Family – years or decades on a waiting list. Employment – almost exclusively for advanced degrees, but employment trends show a need for low skilled workers. Diversity – by nature excludes areas of highest demand. Refugee – surprisingly difficult to prove, the number granted are only a small fraction of the number in tremendous need.

“Comprehensive Immigration Reform just another piece of the dangerous leftist agenda.”

The current reform legislation in discussion, written with Lindsey Graham, is more “conservative” than the version championed by George W. Bush and John McCain four years ago. None of those names are darlings of the “far-left.” I was recently on a conference call with a large group of conservatives, including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Policy wing, who are calling for comprehensive immigration reform. They see a need to reform the system for “conservative values” of family, economy, and security.

“Those people are taking away our jobs.” / “Those people are lazy and want to live off the system.”

Obviously those statements can’t both be true!

Immigrants are generally very hard-working. Many of them come here for work. The majority of immigrants working illegally, 75%, are paying taxes (often with a false Social Security Number, which will never be valid for obtaining any benefits under current law). Those payments account for $6 to $7 billion per year. The IRS has even created an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for immigrants without a valid Social Security Number to file taxes, and many, many do each year.

Most employers want to get a good employee for the job at a low-cost. Some employers say that immigrants are willing to work jobs that American citizens will not. Some employers hire undocumented workers as a way to avoid labor laws, with little risk of being penalized.

“Those people are the cause of surging crime rates.” / “Those people are ruining our economy.”

People said the same things about all of our ancestors when they came here.

There is no data that shows immigrants are any more likely to commit crimes than citizens.

Immigrant workers are a crucial piece of our economy (See previous point.).

“Immigration is out of control right now!”

There were higher rates of immigrants one hundred years ago – the “golden years” for those of us who’s families came to America in the early 1900s. Immigration is actually down now. The overall flow at the USA – Mexico border is actually going to the south. Granted, most experts attribute that shift to the economic recession in America.

Thanks to Matt Soerens for clarifying these issues.


This month Matthew Soerens taught our church staff about Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Matt works with churches on immigration issues through World Relief. He also co-authored the book Welcoming the Stranger (IVP).  Matt has a humble yet insightful view of this issue. I will spend a few post on immigration – inspired by his talks.

Why should Christians engage in Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

While a growing number of White Evangelicals support comprehensive immigration reform, others remain indifferent on the issue, and others oppose the concept.  I believe that people of faith should take part in reforming our national immigration policy because it strikes at the core of Christianity.

It is a Bible Issue – The  Scriptures explicitly teach on how the people of God, including on a government level, are to treat the foreigners in their land. There are several other texts that speak about general principles of love, mercy, compassion, justice and hospitality which must inform our approach to immigration.

It is a Jesus Issue – Jesus was an immigrant. That experience surely had an impact on him. The teaching of Jesus should influence our approach to immigration.  Jesus summarized and prioritized the teachings of the scriptures as “love your neighbor.” He clarified that “neighbor” includes people who are not like us.

It is a Church Issue – The Church of Jesus Christ goes beyond our local congregations. The Church includes all believers. Non-white congregations are the fastest growing segment of  the Church in America. Many of these ethnic churches suffer under our broken immigration system. We are to care for our brothers and sisters in the church.

It is a Mission Issue – Christians are called to make disciples of “all nations,” which means “all people groups.” The reality is that all people groups are coming to America. Their ability to hear and receptivity to the message of Jesus are, at some level, influenced by our national immigration policies and by the Church’s response to  immigration issues.

Next Post –  Immigration in America: Past and Present.

Matt’s Soeren’s Book:

A team from my faith community Impact recently spent a week serving the thousands of people who live around the Guatemala City Garbage dump. The trip was part of our partnership with a Guatemalan ministry named Potter’s House.

Unlike our last 3 trips, this team was able to go inside the actual dump. They passed out water, vitamins, and medicine to hundreds of people who were scavenging through the dump that day.

My colleague Benj Petroelje shared his journal entry with me, and gave me permission to post it.

Guatemala City Garbage Dump – Journal – Day 5

Vultures.  They are what’s eating at me most about this trip and the Guatemala City dump.  Human Beings.  They are in competition with these vultures for the precious scraps of garbage.  Is there a more obvious picture of death anywhere in this world?  Vultures – a bird that represents death.  Human Beings – made in God’s image and meant for life … Standing/Flying side-by-side wading through garbage.

Seriously?

Jesus spoke about a place where two valleys met at the site of a garbage dump.  He spoke of a kind of unquenchable fire that existed there.  It was a literal place.  It was sub-human.  No one was meant to exist there.  Not even vultures.  He called it Gehenna.

We call it hell.

I rode into hell today in the back of a pickup truck.  Unlike Lazarus, I was able to bring water.  But what does water do for those working next to vultures?  What do vitamins do when your very existence is less than human?  What does medicine do when the worms living in your stomach are guaranteed to return?

I’m not sure what they do.

But I do know that hell exists.  And I do know that hell isn’t meant to exist in a world meant for heaven.

So we brought water.

We brought vitamins.

We brought medicine.

We brought ourselves.

Because hell exists (and it shouldn’t).

I know.  I went there today.

Explore how you can partner with Potter’s House on their site.

Should you run away from a church that is involved in social justice?

A popular media figure recently pleaded with people to do just that.

But, what do the scriptures say?

Here are just a few of the many scriptures that speak to God’s thoughts on faith and justice:

Isaiah 58

6 “This is the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke.

7 It is to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.

Micah 6

8 He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25

40 “Jesus will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

45 “Jesus will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

James 1

27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Should you run away from a church that is involved in social justice?

No.

In fact, I believe that the scriptures call us to the opposite action.

You should run away from your church if it is NOT involved in social justice.

The God revealed in the bible is not interested in any faith that does not include justice and mercy for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.

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