One of the hot-button issues in our culture (the United States) is the debate on immigration. The failure of our government to tackle a comprehensive policy on immigration has only served to intensify the problem. Ignoring problems only makes them worse. Let’s be fair to our current crop of politicians: this is not a new issue – it is one that has been ignored for a very long time by people of every political persuasion.
The Immigration debate has, however, raised an interesting question: Have we forgotten who we are? We tend to divide the population between immigrants and non-immigrants. But that’s a false division. We are a nation of immigrants. Even those we call Native Americans were from someplace else. The only difference is one of time – when did your ancestors arrive on these shores? Being a fifth generation American does not make you any different from a first generation American.
From early in our history the world recognized our unique status as a nation of immigrants. Imprinted on the pedestal of Lady Liberty is the famous poem by Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We are all the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tost (sic). It’s easy to forget who we were.
But there is something worse than forgetting who we are as Americans and that is forgetting who we are as followers of Jesus. Many Christians have fallen into the same error as many Americans. We are victims of memory loss. We have forgotten who we use to be. That’s why we struggle with people who choose a different lifestyle – the pro-choice, the pro-homosexual, the alcoholic, the sexually promiscuous among many others. That’s why we search for political answers to spiritual problems.
The Apostle Paul brings us back to reality in Ephesians 2 when he said:
And you who were dead in trespasses and sins,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
among who also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
We were ALL there – living out our sinful, lustful desires. We were all as spiritually dead and as sinful as the pro-choice, the pro-homosexual, the alcoholic, and the sexually promiscuous. There is no difference. How easily we forget who we were and from what we have been saved.
That means that there are only two types of people: those who have been forgiven and those who still need to be forgiven. You aren’t better because you were forgiven last year, or ten years ago or fifty years ago. You’re still just a forgiven sinner with an ugly past that has been washed whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Remembering who we use to be will keep us from becoming judgmental. It will give us a heart like God’s. It will give us empathy for the lost. It will move us to address spiritual problems with spiritual answers.
Don’t forget who you were and from where you’ve come.
Stay in the Word