by Justin Alan Lindstrom
In the first chapter of the Bible God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness.” In other words, God views every individual as someone who has gifts that can contribute to the common good. Passing immigration reform in 2017 would lead to a $4.6 billion increase in Oklahoma’s gross state product over the next 10 years, a $3.1 billion cumulative in the earnings of all Oklahoma residents, and 700 additional jobs for residents of our home state. Surely, these statistics highlight that immigration reform contributes to the common good?
As the Dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, God’s love that is taught to us in Holy Scripture is at the heart of my argument for immigration reform. Throughout Scripture, God makes it abundantly clear that God cares deeply for immigrants; and we, God’s people made in this image, must do the same.
In providing us with a foundation upon which to build our lives, the Bible makes frequent reference to how we should treat immigrants. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that, “whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.” In this context, this verse can be interpreted to mean that how we treat immigrants is quite literally how we treat Jesus. The idea presented in Matthew 25 is reiterated in the Gospel of Luke with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which highlights God’s commandment to love our neighbors, particularly those in need.
We are to be the neighbor of love to those who are marginalized. God is compassionate and just towards immigrants, and we must act the same since welcoming our immigrant neighbors is welcoming Jesus himself into our lives.
In a final remark on the Bible’s teaching that we must share the love of God with everyone we encounter, it is important to remember the number of Biblical heroes and heroines who at one point were immigrants: Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and Ruth. The list goes on.
The benefits of showing compassion and justice to our immigrant neighbors may lead to rewards not only in the next life but also more immediately in this one. No one knows that better than my brother in Christ, Senator James Lankford. In Oklahoma alone, the annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses is $477 million; and this number would surely increase if immigration reform is passed in 2017. Uncapping the existing advanced degree exemption, and expanding the high-skilled visa program could potentially create 3,000 new jobs in our state by 2020.
In a social context, with a 60.6 percent increase in Oklahoma’s foreign-born population from 2000 to 2010, we have a tremendous opportunity to spread the message of the gospel to some who may be hearing God’s words for the first time. The opportunity to share God’s news lies right outside our door. And, immigrants of faith may even share God’s love with us. Thus, we all grow in our love for God and one another.
America is a nation built by immigrants and composed of peoples with immigrant backgrounds, and we must remember our own histories when judging those who were not fortunate enough to have been born in the United States. Join me in sharing God’s love with all and praying for more compassionate and more just treatment of all people in this country. Immigration reform cannot be delayed any longer, the time is now.
NOTE: The Very Rev. Justin Alan Lindstrom is the dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City.