For I Was a Stranger” debate (part 1)

By Dave Leach – I’ve been having a lot of fun this week, in debate about what the Word of God says about immigrants, and in particular any duty Christians have towards the children immigrating to Texas now. In the words of the old hymn, “I LOVE to tell The Story…of Jesus and His Love!” And as another song says, “Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world.”

(This video is a narration of this article by the author – without links, of course)

How can a Restrictionist [who wants further restrictions on how many immigrants can come legally] go to Heaven?” I posted July 9. The next day the headline showed up in my inbox, “Pastor suggests Christians who don’t support amnesty for illegals are going to Hell.” That was Vision to America’s reposting of the original article headlined “Going to Hell: are Evangelicals Who Don’t ‘Take The Reins On Immigration Reform’ Eternally Doomed?”

Since I have been called “pastor” from time to time, and since I have never heard anyone make such a bold point before, I marveled that the story was about me.

It wasn’t. An actual pastor had actually made the same point, the day before I did!

Well, actually, he didn’t make it nearly so clearly as I did. In fact, he made it so indirectly, so subtly, that to put the point in a headline at all shows the author must have already been thinking about it to even notice it, and the Bible passage must have already been eating away at his conscience.

But meanwhile, the July 10 article blasting the July 8 op-ed gathered up 341 comments as of today, and I had quite a time interacting with other commenters.

It seems it is impossible to discuss whether Matthew 25:43 actually warns Christians of Hell for not “taking in” or “receiving” immigrants, that being in Jesus’ mind whether we “receive” Jesus Himself, without discussing whether any warning in the Bible ought to concern any Christian since the Christian is going to Heaven no matter what he does, having “believed” or “received” as minimally required by God.

And that can’t be discussed without discussing salvation, how one secures it, how we can be certain of it (“Eternal Security”), and if it is possible to forfeit it.

I had expected the Matthew 25 warning to be skirted without resort to the broader issues, by arguing that it somehow doesn’t apply to individuals, or to non-Jews, etc. There was a little of that, but those interludes were short and more quickly, than I had expected, disposed of.

So what we had was a robust, wide ranging theological discussion. And lengthy! Too much for one article. So this is the first of a series.

First I must tell you how subtle the New York pastor was, and how much his critic had to blow it up to make a story at all.

The closest Pastor Salguero came to even uttering the word “Hell” was this conclusion of his article:

For when we as a nation query Jesus, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or needing clothes, or sick, or in prison and did not help you?” Jesus will reply, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” What we do for Gilberto, we do for Jesus.

(Gilberto, Salguero said, “was an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy who died near the Southwest border of the United States, most likely in a desperate search for water.”)

No reference was made to Matthew 25:43, to which Salguero alluded. No mention is made of the fact that Hell is the fate of those who won’t help immigrants, and frankly I consider it unlikely that the pastor himself, even in the privacy of his own church office, dared dwell on that aspect of the passage, since I have never heard anyone else make the point except me. The pastor did not even point out that “stranger” translates “immigrant”. Salguero even dumbed down the requirement of this divine warning by translating that we should merely “help” immigrants, while the King James says “take in”, and Young’s Literal Translation says we should “receive” immigrants.

Now take a look at how the July 9 writer, Doug Giles, blew up Slaguero’s subtle hint:

What I find interesting is that he ends his misty eyed musing by quoting Jesus’ famous ‘sheep and the goats’ sermon that damns to hell the stubborn ‘goats’ who refuse to help those in need….So, finally, dear Christian, are you cool with Dr. Gabe’s assessment that you’re doomed if you protest the invasion on the border? Do you think because you’d like to see our nation’s laws respected, that puts you on AC/DC’s Highway to Hell? Do you have any thoughts on this one before we burn for all eternity for opposing this Cloward-Pivening of the USA?

(Cloward and Piven, according to Wikipedia, plotted 50 years ago how to capsize the U.S. economy through bloated welfare expenses.)

All right, Jury, give me your verdict. You have read Salguero’s statement which omits the word “Hell” and does not inform readers that the passage to which he alludes refers to Hell either. In fact he doesn’t even say that his metaphor is found in the Bible, much less does he tell anyone where to look it up.

And you have read Doug Giles’ interpretation of Salguero’s allusion, that “Christians” are “doomed” to “burn for all eternity” for “opposing” mercy for the refugees at our border.

Please render your verdict. Has Doug Giles heard about Matthew 25 before he heard of Salguero’s article? And is he sensitive about the subject? And is there anything else to account for his sensitivity, other than the passage troubling his conscience, but as John 3 describes he loves that corner of darkness and hates that light, that nudge of conscience, and lashes out to “shoot the messenger”?

There was nothing subtle about my post. If you want someone to debate, who actually meant what he is accused of saying, debate me.

I just don’t see how it is possible for a restrictionist Christian to read Matthew 25:43-46 and become just as uneasy as Doug Giles apparently was.

The debate after Giles’ article continues! So as parts of it seem to end I will try to repost them here.

Meanwhile, just one little nugget:

Matthew 25:43 a stranger I was, and ye did not receive me; naked, and ye put not around me; infirm, and in prison, and ye did not look after me. (YLT) John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name: (KJV)

Putting these two verses side by side makes more clear that Jesus’ measure of whether we “receive” Jesus into our hearts, John 1:12, is whether we “receive” immigrants. This is significant because some actually argued that since they “received Jesus into their hearts”, as John 1:12 describes, they are going to Heaven and are “judgment proof”, so they shouldn’t be bothered by the warning of Matthew 25 that what they are doing is the way to Hell. That vain hope fails, when we see that if they will not “receive” immigrants, Jesus does not consider that they ever did “receive Jesus into their hearts”.

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