This Sunday's message is a panel discussion covering the topics of abortion, healthcare, and immigration, with the intention of equipping the Christian with biblical principles to use at the voting booth.
Politically Correct: Prayer, Fasting, and Communion
Politically Correct: A Biblical Overview of Abortion, Healthcare, and Immigration
Politically Correct: The Roles of Family, Government, and The Church
Politically Correct: Citizens of Heaven
How should Christians process through some of the most important political issues of our age? In our series, Politically Correct: A Biblical Perspective on God & Government, Jeff Ward, Bruce Kendrick, Christy Chermak, and Jermaine Harrison share biblical insights on the topics of abortion, healthcare, and immigration.
Jeff Ward: Good morning, Watermark. How are y'all doing this morning? My name is Jeff Ward. I lead our outreach missions, our External Focus ministries is what we call them here, and we are so glad you guys are here today to wrap up week three of this Politically Correct series. We're going to be diving in, and we are going to be tackling some issues this morning in kind of a new way, a new format, that I hope will be helpful for you.
As you guys know, over the last several weeks, we've been getting questions from you through text and email and other things, and we have been putting those into the sermons. This week, we've taken some of the topical questions from you guys and put them into three buckets, and then we've invited three friends up in just a minute to talk about each one of those buckets. We're going to talk about abortion and life, we're going to talk about healthcare, and we're going to talk about immigration.
We're going to do a little bit of a deep dive, but not too much, because there's only so much we can do with the time we have. So, more of a flyover, but we want to help frame the issues for you guys. We want to talk about the Scripture that informs those issues. We want to help you practically as you cast your ballot, if you haven't already, around "What does this mean for me as a voter going in to fill out the ballot?" Then fourthly, how can we engage in some of these issues beyond the election?
I hope you guys are ready. We're going to buckle up. I'd also say, before we start, I know there are other issues you guys care about, that you wrote in about, and I would just encourage you to go to watermark.org/vote. There are resources there. There are actually one-pagers on many of the topics that have been put together to help you. There are a lot of resources there.
There's a community resource called Christians Engaging in Politics to work through God's means of grace in your life, which is community. Then there's a racial reconciliation guide, also designed for small groups. That has been a huge issue at the forefront of our election and for our community in general. That's all there for you, and I would highly encourage you to go there. I know many groups this week are working their way through that.
So, as we talk this morning, as we work through these three buckets with our three friends, I want you to think of three lenses as we look at these issues. The first one is we want to think biblically. We want to understand the priority and the importance of God's Word as being our primary source of information around everything, but especially these topics we're going to talk about today.
We don't go to a cable news source. We don't go to a print media source. We definitely don't go to social media as our primary source of information around these. We want to find out where God's Word has clearly staked a position. It's there. It doesn't always tell us how to get there. You might be even struggling with, "Well, one candidate falls more in line with where Scripture falls. This other candidate falls more in line with where I think Scripture falls on this other issue."
Those are nuances we have to work through as we vote responsibly, which is the second thing. We want to do the work of researching the issues, understanding where the candidates fall. Even last week, I downloaded the sample ballot so I could understand not just who was running for the White House but all of the names down that ticket, to understand who they are, if there are any special issues on that ballot, and just do the hard work of understanding the issues and the candidates. Discuss fully with your community and kind of work out the nuances of that sort of thing.
Lastly, we want to steward our vote in a way where we can stand before the Lord and give an account for our faithfulness in how we stewarded that opportunity we have as a democratic republic to vote. So, we want to do that. We want to think biblically, we want to vote responsibly, and then lastly, we want to engage missionally.
We want to understand that these are not just election concerns. These are real issues facing real people across our community today well before this election and will be well after. How do we, then, as we are thinking and waiting the return of our Savior… We know we are citizens of heaven, but at the same time, we have work to do here. How do we engage these issues well beyond the election? So, as I introduce our panel, I'll invite them up.
First we have Bruce Kendrick, who is our director of life initiatives and family restoration here, to talk about life. I think you're going to really enjoy what he has to say. We have Christy Chermak, who is our director of Watermark health initiatives, which includes our two stand-alone clinics and our mobile clinic, and works with medical professionals across our body and works with people across the community in meeting healthcare needs.
Then Jermaine Harrison, who is our director of high school ministry. Shoreline is what we call it. He's here to talk about immigration, a little bit of his personal journey, and I think you're going to be blessed by all of it. Let's start with the most important work, which is prayer. Jermaine, why don't you lead us out?
Jermaine Harrison: Lord, thank you so much for today. Thank you for life and health and strength, and thank you for this opportunity we have to open your Word and to remind ourselves of what's true and to use the principles in your Word to inform how we should think and vote and engage with our world. So thank you. Lord, be with us. I pray that if there's anyone here or listening, watching online, who does not know you that today would be the day they come to know you as Lord and personal Savior. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Jeff: Terrific. Let's just jump in. Bruce, as we know, abortion is always at the forefront of our election cycle issues that we talk about. We're almost midway through a new Supreme Court nominee and her confirmation process, so there have been a lot of questions about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 seminal decision around abortion. Also, too, I'd say, the last year and a half to two years there have been states and local jurisdictions enacting policies and procedures around abortion, restricting it or advancing it in some cases. So, could you frame up for us the challenge we're facing as a country on this issue?
Bruce Kendrick: Yeah. Let me start by saying every time we bring this up, it feels like we would be remiss to not address the fact that this isn't just about policies; this is about actual people and lives. So, if you're a woman or a man who's in the room or watching online at home or just picking this up on social media two weeks from now or something…
What often happens is there's this voice of condemnation, this voice of shame that says, "Hey, remember that abortion is a part of your story." There's somehow this exception, this unforgivable sin that Christ didn't die for, yet you're surrounded by people in this room who know what it is to be forgiven, not because we are righteous.
Psalm 103 talks about how God doesn't deal with us according to our sins or repay us according to our iniquities, that he separates our sin as far as the east is from the west. We want to invite you in to experience that kind of forgiveness and that kind of freedom. At the same time, as we talk about this, we are talking about our role as the church in holding the government accountable to its role, which is primarily to protect injustice.
So, I want to frame up a few things around the current situation. First is just statistically where we are. Since 1973, and certainly there were abortions before that, but since 1973, sixty million pre-born human beings have been murdered through abortion. I realize you can glaze over with statistics, but to give you some comparison, that is the equivalent of today's state populations of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
If you were to take the entirety of the populations of those states and wipe them off the face of the earth, that is what we've done through abortion. Secondly, abortion today is really going DIY. It's a do-it-yourself. It's not legal, per se, but you can hop on the Internet, order a script for abortion pills from a doctor in India, and have them shipped to your front door. There are also organizations that are funding the development of at-home abortion kits. That's not sometime in the future; that's being developed right now.
Then the last thing I'd say is… We say this a lot: words have meaning, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. Abortion is one of those things that has been rebranded time and time again. Initially, it was talked about as family planning or birth control. Then it was women's rights. Then it was healthcare. We still hear a lot about that. Now it's reproductive justice. And who doesn't want to be against that?
I even heard recently a pastor say something to the effect of, "We have to care about abortion for the pre-born and abortion for the post-born." As I pondered that, I went, "Gosh! That is a crazy way to raise the value of other issues beyond the life issue." No other human beings on the planet are being dealt with like the pre-born on the scale that they are being terminated. So, as we think about politics, as we think about this election, if you're wondering, "Why does the church keep making a big deal of this?" that's it. That's why.
Jeff: Bruce, we know we're created in God's image. We know that God knit us together in the womb, but are there places in Scripture where you would say the Bible actually holds up a legal standard that protects both the mom and the pre-born in the same way?
Bruce: Yeah. Exodus 21:22-25. Before I quote that, I would tell you… I hear a lot of people, and not necessarily completely wrong in this position, talking about the reduction of abortion. "How do we reduce abortion?" While that is a component of this, the primary component is not "How do we reduce abortion?" The primary component is "How do we provide equal protection for every human being on the planet, and specifically in our country?"
Exodus 21:22-25 says, "If two people are fighting and they strike a pregnant woman, causing her to give birth prematurely, but there's no serious injury, you're to have them pay a fine for whatever the husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you're to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
In that passage, even though we're not Israel so we don't follow the Mosaic law in the same ways God was intending for Israel when he was setting that nation up, there's a biblical precedent and principle there for us to follow, that we recognize that every human being, from the point of fertilization to the point of death, requires equal protection under our laws.
Jeff: So help us move practically now. As we walk into the voting booth, what do we think about these things?
Bruce: First, you're not just voting for president. Most of the pro-life legislation that happens happens because of state legislators who are weighing in on those issues. When you've heard of heartbeat bills and pain-capable bills and a number of different other things that have been tried that have been struck down at the federal court level, those federal courts have judges who are appointed by the president, which is why that position is so important.
Even recently here in the state of Texas (well, 2013), we put forward legislation that effectively said, "Hey, if the abortion industry wants to treat itself as healthcare, then it should maintain the same standards as the medical industry does." Yet because of Roe v. Wade, they get this kind of weird loophole that it's not done that way.
Certainly, there are other states that have expanded abortion. Recently, New York and Virginia expanded abortion all the way until birth. Delaware even said, "We want to reduce abortion," so they effectively prescribed long-term birth control to women who are of childbearing age who do not want to be pregnant to prevent them from getting pregnant.
So we seriously have to raise the question of…As believers, what are the implications of saying, "We're going to fund birth control for you," especially if that birth control is an abortifacient? I'll let you look up abortifacient on your own, as well as eugenics and some of those other things that contribute to the history of abortion and where we've come.
Those are some of the things to think about when you're looking at people down ballot, and then certainly at the presidential level, you have kind of two primary issues: judicial nominees and funding. I also hear a lot of people say, "Hey, is the president really doing anything to impact abortion in our country?" The answer is yes. Just straight-up yes…yes through judicial nominations, and then yes through funding.
The pro-choice candidates typically want to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions or tie to abortions here domestically, as well as tie it to foreign aid, which is another problematic issue. Then pro-life candidates are just the opposite. We've held that position for a long time, where we've said, "No, we're not going to use our taxpayer dollars to fund those services, either internationally and tie that to aid that's given or here domestically."
Jeff: I hear you saying it's really important who's in the White House but also super important who's in both the federal and the state legislature, because they're the ones who work out some of these laws that ultimately help protect the pre-born.
Bruce: I'm happy to unpack any of that. I realize there's more nuance and complexity to that. Personally, I've tried to find, like, "Hey, is there a chance that this makes more sense?" and weighed all of those things out, and every time, I find myself coming back to that equal protection issue that continues to become secondary.
Jeff: So now, as followers of Christ, what can we do beyond the election to engage in this topic?
Bruce: Well, I have the best job on our staff. I think I've shared that before. I really do have the best. I'd go up against either of you. I get to lead our efforts in caring for vulnerable women and men and children and families, where they're getting removed into foster care, where they're experiencing generational cycles of addiction and poverty and violence. It is this incredible privilege, as well, to serve women and men with unexpected pregnancies and past abortions.
I have a picture of my friend Tia up here. Tia came and joined our unexpected pregnancy mentoring team and just said, "Hey, I want to walk alongside a woman who has an unexpected pregnancy, help her make a choice for life, help her care for that child, that we're not just pro-birth." We got a referral from the urgent care clinic for Ruth.
Ruth is from Nigeria. She has been here a couple of years. She has three kids. She's married. She's a believer, but her husband was effectively saying, "We can't afford to have another child. I don't want to do this. You need to go get an abortion." In that immense pressure, Tia got to come alongside her back in January, walk with her, take her to parenting classes, just exchange and build that relationship and even introduce her to her first burrito here in Texas.
Jeff: Which is key.
Bruce: Yeah. High value of Tex-Mex here. They got to walk alongside each other, and Tia is pregnant now. She would even say the relationship has built such that you wouldn't be able to even know if she was the mentor anymore or if Ruth was the mentor. That's what it's supposed to look like. So, in the event you've heard that accusation before, like, "You're a Christian. You're only pro-birth. You're not really pro-life," I would just say, you may not have been around here that long. You may just be new here, because there are people getting after it.
Tia is just one of many of those of you who have opened your homes, who have given of your families. I know I used to recoil from that accusation, like, "Gosh, maybe we are just pro-birth." It's just not the case. We have historically been in the trenches with vulnerable populations as believers, as people of God, living out Proverbs 31:8-9, which says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves… Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
Church, we have incredible opportunities. It is such a privilege to be alive right now, to be a part of God's people right now, whether it's going through an Equipping class… We've developed a deal called More Than Abortion so you can be biblically and biologically informed about pro-life issues, that you can think and articulate arguments that way and lovingly, winsomely care for those in need.
We have those of you who are stepping forward to foster and adopt and opening your homes. There are more than 400 kids who are waiting to be adopted from Dallas County right now, so there's work to be done. Don't hear me saying, "Hey, we've got this all wrapped up. Everybody can go home." There's work to be done. Engage. For those of you who are like, "Okay. I'm voting for the pro-life candidate," that means we're going to leave some things that aren't as prioritized, so we have to jump into those things all the more.
Jeff: Thank you so much, Bruce. Appreciate that. Let's move now to healthcare. Christy, you must have the second-best job, I guess, on staff.
Christy Chermak: That's debatable.
Jeff: We're hearing a lot, especially this election cycle, around the Affordable Care Act, around the 20 to 30 million Americans or so who might be out of healthcare if there wasn't that option. Could you help us frame up this whole issue for the challenge facing our country?
Christy: Sure thing. So, 2020 had a way of showing us very clearly some of the problems in our healthcare system. There's nothing quite like a global pandemic to point out some of the issues and some of the holes in the system that have been there for a while. I think a lot of times, when we have this conversation about healthcare, we have a couple of misconceptions that weave their way into it. So, before we can even start to critique the system, I think it's important to make sure we know what system we're talking about.
We have a circle diagram here to show you. Healthcare is when these four areas overlap. A lot of times, we think healthcare and immediately jump to health insurance, and that's actually just one piece of the system. It's much more complicated than that. When you, as a patient, walk into a clinic or somewhere to be seen, you're going to interact with those four things.
Health insurance. You're going to interact with the medical provider, the doctor, the nurse, the healthcare worker you're working with. You're going to interact with the medical technologyor intervention. That could be as simple as you need to make lifestyle changes or it could be something all the way up to prescriptions or surgeries or procedures. The fourth area would be _healthcare administration. That would be the clinic, the hospital that's being run and offering that service.
Technically, I am in healthcare administration because I run our clinics here at Watermark. I think it's important to make sure we understand that there are those four things interacting, because each of those four things is bringing their own unique brokenness into the conversation. A lot of times when we talk through this we oversimplify it, and we see one problem and try to fix that one problem in the wrong area where that problem is not even occurring.
So, I think that's the first misconception to make sure we understand a little bit better. The second would be, a lot of times, in our political climate, we've simplified this conversation to arguing, "Do we do more fully run government healthcare?" (that would be all four pieces of that circle are government run and government owned) versus "Do we have a fully privatized system in healthcare?" That's just a false conversation that's happening in our heads.
Our current system is all in the middle of that spectrum. All four of those areas could be private, could be government run, could be charity run. If you think through that, you have a ton of iterations of what healthcare could look like based on how you access it. You could go to a private hospital but have a public health insurance plan.
It's a very complicated system. We're pursuing a lot of benefits by making it that diverse and complicated, but we're receiving all of the negatives at the same time. So, that would be an overarching critique, but really, to get down into the weeds, we have to look at each of those areas and what they are run by and what the positives and negatives of that could be.
Jeff: How should we think, then, about government versus private versus even church involvement with access to healthcare?
Christy: That's the million-dollar question right now, where we are spending time talking about "How should the government be involved versus how should it not be involved?" One helpful way to evaluate who is going to do a better job in those areas would be to apply Blake's sermon from last week. He said the government's role is to protect its citizens. There are certainly things in healthcare the government should be protecting us with, primarily that there's some version of healthcare.
Then the second thing would be that there are spots in healthcare where the church should be proclaiming the truth about who humans are and how much they matter to God. A helpful way to evaluate those different areas would be the image of a three-legged stool. So, if you want to imagine healthcare as a three-legged stool, it has three legs you want to make sure are working to their full ability.
The first would be the access to care, the second would be the quality of care, and then the third would be the ethics involved in that care. Right now in our country we're debating a lot between the access and the quality of care. There's sometimes the narrative that if you increase access, you're going to lower quality, and we're spending a lot of time talking about, "How do you do those things and hold both of those values high?"
I will insert right here access to care is probably one of the biggest issues in our current system. If you've been lucky enough to never have to deal with lack of insurance, it's worth knowing that lack of insurance, lack of accessibility, lack of ability to pay for healthcare can ruin the lives of people. I would venture to guess there are people watching this, people listening today in the building, that the inability in our system to access it in affordable ways has really hurt them.
A lot of people who don't have insurance will end up not getting the preventative care they need, and then their minor issues will go on much longer and become much more emergent than they ever needed to be. So, this is a big area that we should be worried about and not just set aside and say, "That's somebody else's job to figure out." The church should be involved in that, and we are. We have multiple medical clinics that step into that space to provide access.
Really, where I'd want everyone to focus their attention on that stool would be the third leg: the ethics of the care involved. This is where the church needs to be especially involved in the healthcare system so that when ethical issues arise, we actually have a voice or a seat at the table to steer the ship back on course.
So, what do I mean by that? Healthcare, I would argue, is a holy profession. There's something beautiful and holy happening in the moment when someone who has innate dignity, value, and worth, who God loves so much that he sent his Son to die for them, shows up and says, "My body is broken. I'm living on a broken earth. I need help," and a healthcare professional steps into that very holy space and offers suggestions, decisions, and direction for better health.
It's important to make sure the church is involved in that conversation, because it's riddled with ethical issues. We already heard from Bruce about abortion. When does life begin? That is a huge ethical concern right now in healthcare, all the way to the other end of the spectrum: What does it look like to die with dignity? A lot of our country is talking about that. That is an ethical issue in healthcare.
Then there are a million different things in between the conversation of when life begins and when it ends that are real conversations that are being debated in our courts, such as when and how providers should have to provide hormone therapy treatments for people who want to transition genders.
These are real things happening in our country today. This isn't some future "What if…?" concern, so the church needs to be involved in some format. No matter how you'd apply that to those four circles, the church needs to be involved in some format so we can speak into those very real issues.
Jeff: One of the questions we also got was "Is healthcare a universal human right?" How should we, as believers, think about that?
Christy: It's a great question. I would say very clearly: healthcare is not a right; healthcare is a service that should be administered righteously. Biblically, we know that we are all sinners. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. We have gone our own path, and when we did that, we lost rights to anything. We don't deserve anything. That's part of what makes God's grace so good. We don't deserve it. We did not earn it.
Healthcare falls into that bucket where we don't necessarily have the right to it, but we do have a good God who has offered us common graces here on earth. When good things happen here on earth to the general public, that's an example of God loving humanity so much he lets things like good health and good healthcare happen.
As a believer, I want to make sure as many people as possible experience that good common grace and that they get the chance to learn about the God who offered it to them. I think a lot of times, when we ask the question, "Is healthcare a right?" really what we're doing is we're seeing the injustices in the system, and we kind of ask this abstract question that almost makes it some conversation about somebody else over there, and do they have a right or not?
This reminds me of the story of the good Samaritan. Early on in that story, you see Jesus conversing with some of his disciples. The Pharisees are there. They talk about how the Old Testament law says you should love your neighbor as yourself. One of the Pharisees says, "Okay. Well, then, Jesus, who is my neighbor?"
He tells the whole story of the good Samaritan, and then he changes the question at the end of it. He's no longer saying, "Who is my neighbor?" He's saying, "So tell me, everyone, who in this story was the good neighbor?" Not "Who is my neighbor?" but "What kind of neighbor are you being?" I think it's the same with healthcare.
The question isn't "Is this a right?" The question is, "How am I doing (church, follower of Jesus, Christian) at making sure healthcare is administered righteously in my nation? How am I doing at caring about the well-being of the people around me, the neighbor around me, those in my city who don't have the desperate access they need?" That is the question that should keep us up at night, not "Is it a right or not?"
Jeff: That's good. So, how can we as Christians participate in that? How can we help be part of that solution?
Christy: Historically, the church has had a very strong role in the healthcare system. We were the first in the early church to even create hospitals. We were notorious during the bubonic plague to stick around in the city when people were sick and dying. We went there to serve. Even currently in the United States there's a reason most of our hospital systems have a Protestant link in their name back to that church.
Now, we can take an objective look and see over the last 50 years there has been mission drift in a lot of those institutions. They don't look, smell, act, feel like the church at all anymore. So over time, people have stopped seeing that service even as a church-provided service, and they're starting to say, "Hey, this thing isn't working anymore. Who else can help us?" and they shift their focus over to the government.
That's naturally happening in our country, and I think we can see some of the negatives of that when we take a look at England. England has a fully socialized system. All four parts of that circle are government run. You can go research the positives and the negatives of that. There are both. There are wins and losses anytime you pick a solution to something.
I think the thing the church should really zero in on is the fact that as England shifted to that system, it became very clear that the English people shifted their focus from looking to the church for their solutions to the government instead. So much so that former cabinet member for Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson, famously said the NHS, the National Health Service there, is the closest thing the English people have to a religion.
As a follower of Christ, I want to make sure in the United States of America the closest thing the people have to a religion is not a healthcare system; it's God and following Christ in the church. So, as a part of that, that is why I'm so stinkin' proud of this church. We have not willingly walked away from the system. We have not left a vacant hole there.
I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of members at this church who work in healthcare and, in the middle of a really difficult year, have shown up in and out, day by day, making sure they are representing Christ in their industry. So way to go. We are so proud of you, and we're thankful for your service.
The second thing… This church has corporately said, "We're going to step into this space." You're seeing some of the pictures of our clinics behind me. We have multiple locations where we see over 11,000 patients annually who do not have insurance, and we're not slowing down. We're adding to that number every single year.
We are stepping into a very real need in our city, and while we're in the middle of that need, providing COVID testing, running toward the weary, the vulnerable, we are also getting the chance to engage them spiritually. Is healthcare a right or a privilege? That is the privilege. The privilege is the church showing up in the city, caring for a true need, and seeing God at work in the middle of it.
Jeff: That's good. Thank you so much, Christy. Okay. So, we have the best job on staff, the holiest of professions. Here we go, Jermaine. It's a hard act to follow. Let's talk about immigration for a minute. This is a huge issue. We know our administration holds strong opinions around legal immigration, illegal immigration. We know it's not just a national issue; it's a state issue, because we are a border state. It's a Metroplex issue.
Not many people realize we resettle more refugees here in the Metroplex than any other place in the country. We have international students who are here who are being educated and learning and then will return to their countries as leaders and influencers. We have UTD down the road with 8,500 international students. They're ninth in the country, I believe. This is an issue that's front and center for us, so could you help frame up the challenge for us around the topic of immigration?
Jermaine: Absolutely, Jeff. This topic is very complex, as you can imagine or as you already know. I want to distill it down to probably the core of the problem that I've seen. Many Christians feel like they have to choose a side when it comes to the issue of immigration, to choose either care and compassion on the one hand or submission to and respect for laws on the other hand. There's this feeling, this challenge we face, where it's like, "Do I want to be marked as someone who cares and has compassion for immigrants or do I want to be someone who obeys and follows the law of the land?"
I'm here to share with you from God's Word that it is possible to have both, to have a well-balanced, biblical perspective of care and compassion for the immigrant while at the same time submission to and respect for laws that are meant to preserve our land and protect our citizens and allow for human flourishing. To that end, they've invited an immigrant onstage to help set the stage for that. In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, "Immigrants, we get the job done."
Jeff: All right. There you go. Now tell us a little bit… How does God's Word inform this topic? How should we be thinking about this biblically?
Jermaine: I think when most people form their policy or their perspective on immigration and immigrants, they don't necessarily look to God's Word. They might look to social media or to the news or elsewhere. But God's Word is full of guidance for us, specifically in the Old Testament where God establishes his covenant people, the nation of Israel.
Now, we are not the nation of Israel, and we don't abide, necessarily, by the Mosaic law, but there are practical principles God weaved into how that nation was to function that are helpful for us today as we think and talk about this issue of immigration. So, I want to share with you a couple of biblical principles that I think are helpful for this discussion.
The first is: the story of our redemption is filled with immigrants. What I mean by that is when you look in the Bible, you go all the way back to Genesis when Abraham is called by God to a land he does not know. Abraham was called to be an immigrant. Wherever he went, he would ask for permission to stay there, to dwell in the land and to cultivate faithfulness. Abraham was an immigrant.
We move on in the story, and Joseph was forcibly made an immigrant to the nation of Israel when his brothers sold him into slavery. We move on further into the lineage of Jesus, and we read the story of Ruth, the Moabite woman, who chose to be an immigrant to the nation of Israel to love and serve her mother-in-law. Then we go further on to Jesus himself who was running for his life along with his parents because of a death threat on his life because of King Herod.
Those are just a few examples, but all throughout Scripture it is clear that immigrants are all around the story of God's redemption for us. So, that's the first principle. The second one I want to share is: God's heart is for the immigrant. He invites followers of Jesus, those of us who have placed our faith and trust in him… If you're not a follower of Jesus, I hope you become one, because it's awesome. God's heart is for the immigrant, and he invites followers of Jesus to care for and to show compassion toward immigrants.
We see one example of that I want to mention in Leviticus 19:33-34. It says, "When a stranger sojourns…" So, being a legal immigrant, someone who has asked for permission to be there. Footnote: there are a couple of different words used for immigrant in the Old Testament. This is just one of them. You can research the others, but specifically, this is talking about a legal immigrant to the nation of Israel.
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." God's heart is for the immigrant, and our hearts should be as well.
The third principle I want to share is: God's Word is clear that everyone, including immigrants, should obey the law of the land. When these sojourners were to become a part of the nation of Israel, there were certain laws and customs they were expected to follow. We see an example of that in Numbers 15:15-16.
"…there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord . One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you." In other words, an immigrant or a citizen of the nation of Israel was supposed to abide by the laws and customs of the land.
Similarly, by extension, immigrants and citizens of our country are supposed to abide by the laws of the land. We have an opportunity to care for immigrants who come here and not take advantage of them because maybe we can get them to do the same job a citizen would do for way cheaper. There are so many things God's Word is calling us to be careful about in this idea that it's very clear that we should obey the law of the land…all of us…citizens and immigrants.
Jeff: So, we don't want to waste our shot when we go into the voting booth. When we walk in and vote, how should we be thinking?
Jermaine: I think what you said up top is very helpful for all of us. We should think biblically. What does God's Word, first of all, have to say specifically or by way of principle about this issue? Then we should vote responsibly. Specifically, on the issue of immigration, we should vote for candidates who will write into law caring and compassionate laws and policies that benefit both citizens and immigrants. It's very important for us to do our homework and look into that and vote for those candidates.
Jeff: These are not just abstract principles for you. Right? You've lived this in your immigration journey, so could you just share with us a little bit about the last 10 years for you and what that process has been like?
Jermaine: Absolutely. To set that up, I want to show you a picture of myself back in 2010 leaving my home island of Saint Martin. I look as 2010 as you possibly can in there. I have a white undershirt under my polo. I have a BlackBerry…all this stuff. I was moving from Saint Martin to go to seminary here in Dallas with a suitcase full of books and one full of shoes and one full of clothes.
The Lord brought me to this place, and my story of immigration is one of many. There are some people who come here literally running for their lives, refugees and asylum seekers, and there are people who come here looking for just better opportunity or better education. For me, over the last 10 years, I have applied for student visas and multiple work visas and, most recently, a Green Card, and that process is long and exhausting and uncertain and expensive.
Specifically, the application fees, the travel, lawyer costs… All of those things for me, personally, over the last 10 years have amounted to around $20,000. By God's sovereignty, I have been surrounded by a great support system here at this church and have been able to provide for myself with some of those costs, but many immigrants probably don't have $20,000 just chilling in the bank waiting to use it on immigration proceedings.
So, I think this is helpful for you guys to know that this process can be extremely long, like, years and years and years of waiting, is extremely uncertain (there were many times even in my own process where things could have gone either way for me), and that it's really expensive as well.
Jeff: In addition to voting, how would you encourage us, admonish us to be involved in this topic beyond November 3?
Jermaine: The first thing I would say is pray. It sounds cliché, but it is the most important thing we can do, to pray for our elected officials, because like we said at the front, this topic is so complex. If it were easy, it would have been solved and we would have been good by now, but it's not. We should be praying for those who are writing those laws or enacting those laws to be marked by care and compassion as well. So pray for elected officials.
Secondly, build relationships with immigrants. In this church, we have around 70 different nations represented. That's a great opportunity right here or next door to you or at your workplace to begin conversations and build friendships with people who are from all across the world who God has brought here to be a friend to you and an opportunity to minister and serve.
Thirdly, increase knowledge. Do some research. What is DACA? What does it mean when we hear them talking about policies like "catch and release" or "zero tolerance"? What are those things? It's very helpful to stay informed rather than just seeing the graphic images on social media or on the news and informing an opinion that way.
Lastly, serve here through Watermark. We have a ministry to Watermark international students. We get to love and serve and build relationships with them. We have a partner organization we call For the Nations that we get to serve with to help refugees with learning English and Bible studies and different opportunities like that.
You can also partner with our ministry partner Compassion International in El Salvador where we are on the front lines of helping the church and the community there to help those communities flourish to where those folks who are fleeing for their lives can have a better opportunity to flourish in their land.
Jeff: Terrific. Thank you so much. Would you join me in thanking our panel? Listen. Let's just end where we started. We want to think biblically. Remember, we want to go back to Scripture as God's wisdom, his authority, our guide. It's important that we start there, because Scripture does stake out some positions on these topics and so many others. That's where we start.
Then we vote responsibly. We do the hard work of rolling up our sleeves and understanding where the candidates are on these issues and these topics, and we pray for wisdom and discernment. We take a deep breath, and we walk into the voting booth, and we fill out those ballots in a way that we can stand before the Lord and be accountable for our faithfulness with the stewardship of the vote.
Then lastly, we want to engage missionally. While we do our best to think biblically and we vote responsibly, we must engage missionally. These are challenges that face our community here and now. They've been here before the election, and they'll be here after the election. While we are citizens of heaven (we learned that week one of this series) and we're awaiting the return of our Savior, we have work to do right here as salt and light.
We're commanded to love and care for our city, to seek its welfare. So, we want to engage missionally. As we heard last week, if the church gets this right, if we are firing on all cylinders, then our community will be flourishing. Engaging missionally is not just what we do; it's who we are as followers of Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
We are not saved by our works, but a saving faith will work. We will love and care for our community. We'll be spurred on and motivated to be salt and light. It has also been said that good works create goodwill, which creates a platform for the good news. We know from Matthew 5:16… "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Think one more time back to our friends Tia and Ruth and how these issues are not just election talk for Ruth, as she touched the immigration process, as she made her way from Nigeria here to the United States, and then as she was confronted with an unexpected pregnancy and the other kids in her life she needed to provide for and her husband's reticence.
That could have taken a really dark turn but for the body of Christ showing up in Tia, specifically, being the hands and feet, and then as she made her way to our clinics and access to healthcare, which became an intersection to bring the body of Christ around her in a really amazing way. These are real issues facing real people in our community today.
So, today, as you heard Bruce talking, if your heart beat a little faster around the life issues and maybe mentoring a woman with an unexpected pregnancy or to foster or adopt, jump in with us. We have opportunities for that. Or as Christy was talking about healthcare access… If you're a medical professional, of course we can put you to work, but even if you're not, there are 11,000 people coming through those clinics who want to know more about a relationship with Jesus, so jump in with us.
If you were hearing about immigration and international students who are being educated, and they want to know about our culture and Christian culture as they get ready to go back to their countries where they are going to be influencers and leaders in places that we can't send teams and we can't get into those countries… If you have a heart to befriend our international friends, there is a place for you.
All you have to do is go to watermark.org/vote. We've made some really easy places for you to plug in and serve well beyond November 3. Gang, these are challenges, but they are also opportunities for the church to get to work. We have to be crystal clear about our mission, which is to love mercy, to promote justice, and to walk humbly, Micah 6:8 says. So, let's get this right. Let's go, church. Pray with me.
Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for the reminder that these topics are real, Father, that you care about them, that you encourage us to dive into your Word, to understand your wisdom around these, Father, that you give us means of grace to understand the nuances as we steward our vote, and, Lord, that you just gave us an adventure as your people to be salt and light and hands and feet and to love people in really, really tangible ways.
Father, help us. You've said to ask for wisdom and you will give without reproach. So, Father, we are asking for this election coming up and for the months and years to follow that we would be a faithful people, loving you and loving others well. We love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.