There is a tsunami coming. Whether one agrees or disagrees with President Obama the church needs to prepare itself for how to respond to DAPA – the newly announced Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. Here are three things the church can do now.
1. Develop a theological response. There are many voices speaking out on immigration. Only one voice matters – God’s. The church is His bride and should respond from a careful, Biblical theology. The Evangelical Immigration Table is a helpful place to start as well as the Film The Stranger. I believe the first place to start is with a recognition of two kingdoms. Our ultimate citizenship is the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom is open to every tribe, nation, language and people group (Rev. 7:9) who recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is our destination and we should not lose sight of the profound truth of the gospel which destroys all barriers of hostility in race and status (Eph. 2:14). Our secondary citizenship is in the United States. We should encourage the rule of law. Respecting the authorities (Rom. 13) means respecting the deferred action decision whether agreeing with the action or not. It also means reading past the first seven verses of Romans 13 – after all the original letter was not divided into subsections – and Paul continues with “Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” (Rom. 13:8). And Jesus told us loving our neighbor meant those of a different race and nationality like the Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This love of neighbor was tied to entry into the Kingdom of God – the lawyer’s question (Luke 10:25). This was also true of Jesus discussion on the Kingdom in Matthew 25:31-46 which discusses the importance of welcoming the stranger.
2. Understand the law. Deferred Action for Parental Accountability is not amnesty. The Executive Action prioritizes the selection of who should be deported. Those who have committed a crime while in the United States rise to the top of the deportation list. Those who have obeyed the laws while in the United States and are parents of U.S . Citizens or Permanent Residents go to the back of the list. Most churches want to encourage people to follow the law. The law now allows a way for millions of our neighbors to come out of the shadows and begin a process for getting right. They can’t complete that process until Congress acts, but they can begin and that is an important step. Deferred action removes the fear of deportation so long as one remains in that status. The law allows one to obtain a social security number for work purposes allowing people to work and pay taxes without a stolen identification number. Once working a low-wage earner can claim the earned income tax credit which can significantly aid in supporting U.S. Citizen children (42 USC 405 (c)(2)(B) (i). The regulations and forms are being created now with an expected implementation in May, 2015. The church needs to keep up with these rules so they can obey the law while helping our immigrant neighbors. Gospel Justice Initiative is a legal organization that can help keep the church informed.
3. Develop a response system. Don’t wait until May. Now is the time to discuss how the church will handle individuals who come to them for assistance. Will the church turn them away or will the church take the opportunity to welcome the stranger? Rampant fraud is already taking place. Almost as soon as the President announced DAPA people began advertising they could help for several thousand dollars. People will prey on hope. They will exploit our neighbors. The church should be a place of trust, a place people can turn to for guidance and direction. With millions of individuals affected it is likely your church might encounter this issue. Build relationships now. World Relief has excellent resources as does Gospel Justice Initiative. We would welcome the opportunity to equip lawyers and others to minister the gospel and justice to our neighbors in need. You can visit our events page as we will be listing locations we will be in across the country next year for training or you can contact us about coming to your community or working with your church. All church staff should be made aware of how the church is responding.
The church has unprecedented opportunity to bring the hope of the gospel, the help of a lawyer and the support of a church together to make a kingdom difference. Will we make the most of this opportunity or like the church leaders in Jesus story of the Good Samaritan, will we walk on by. I pray we follow the example Christ gave us of the one who showed mercy as we develop a theological response, understand the law, develop a response system, and
Go and Do Likewise!