“Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.“
Jesus according to The Gospel of Matthew
What does it mean for the Christian witness when it becomes a crime to provide food, water, and shelter for another child of God? The trial in Arizona for Dr. Scott Warren, the latest humanitarian volunteer charged with a crime for providing food, water, and shelter for migrants crossing the border, is the latest incident that is forcing us to ask this question.
We live in a time when many consider Franklin Graham holding a day of prayer to protect Donald Trump from his “enemies” to be a more faithful act of faith than feeding and giving shelter to people in need along the United States/Mexico border. That is empire Christianity rather than kin-dom Christianity.
There is a crisis at the border. But it’s not the one you think.
The real crisis we are facing is the diminished worth and dignity of people. Diminished worth and dignity of people because they are immigrants and migrants, diminished worth and dignity for those seeking to do exactly what Jesus commanded his followers to do. One of the most Christian acts one can do, the way Jesus said people will recognize one as his follower, love for all people, has been deemed against the law. The real crisis is a humanitarian crisis, one where people seeking to do what God calls us to do, being arrested and put on trial for their work. Chew on that for a minute.
I’m constantly amazed at what does and does not cause a number of my fellow Christians to have righteous anger. Some are more than willing to be outraged over an imagined loss of rights to say “Merry Christmas,” but feel no responsibility for outrage or actions around issues that should alarm people of faith. I’m talking about racism, sexism, the treatment of undocumented people, the rise of white supremacy, the proliferation of gun violence, and the marginalization of the poor. The list is long and overwhelming. At the border, we are witnessing some of God’s most faithful servants assisting some of God’s most vulnerable people and we cannot turn a blind eye to their plight. This crisis at the border demands our collective righteous anger.
The consequences are steep; withholding and criminalizing the basic necessities of life are not faithful. I’ll close with more words of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew:
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’