Dual Citizenship


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, 2 Samuel 4:1-12, Acts 16:25-40, Mark 7:1-23

Paul had the uncommon fortune of being both a Roman citizen and a Jew. When his jailers and the magistrates above them realized he was a citizen, they immediately regretted the public beatings and unfair imprisonment they had heaped upon him, as it was illegal to treat citizens that way.

What if Paul hadn’t been a citizen? Would we feel differently about the injustice of his treatment? Should we feel differently? If it was wrong for him, how could it be less wrong for someone who didn’t share the same accident of birth? After all, the Jewish people didn’t set up camp inside Roman territory; the avalanche of empire left them aliens in their own homes. They weren’t immigrants; they were immigrated upon.

Immigration and citizenship continue to be thorny issues. Many nations, the United States included, have different sets of laws for citizens and non-citizens. Yet in our formation, we too spread like the Roman empire, alienating , dislocating, and slaughtering native peoples. Their story is not so different from the story of Paul’s people, yet because it’s now our territory and we’ve established our laws we don’t think of it the same way at all. Do we believe God is persuaded to accept this double standard by the lines we draw (and redraw) on His borderless globe?

We convince ourselves of our own compassion by saying the “good” immigrants follow the law, but the rules for entering – or staying in – a nation change a lot once the inhabitants decide they are civilized enough to lock the doors, even with someone else’s belongings still in their living room. Immigration regulations are often no more than a matter of timing – of our current cultural prejudices codified into law.

Christians don’t have to agree on how to handle something as complex as immigration and citizenship, but our views should be shaped more by the teachings of Christ than by nationalism, fear, or politics. The law cannot become our refuge from inconvenient mercy. None of us are born or even naturalized to the Kingdom of Heaven; we are admitted by God’s grace.

Additional Reading:
Read more about today’s scripture from Acts in Surrender.
For thoughts on today’s passage from Mark, see Not the heart but the stomach.

Comfort: No matter where we go, willingly or unwilling, we are home in Christ.

Challenge: Read about the history of immigration in America. Chances are you belong to some group that was once considered undesirable.

Prayer: O LORD, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence, let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry. (Psalm 88:1-2)

Discussion: Immigration is a very politicized topic. Is your faith ever at odds with your politics?

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