Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fellow-citizens with the saints

The fact that many people enjoy privileges that others don't just because of how and where they're born has cropped up in my life a lot lately.

  • I'm researching the Roman Empire for a book, and it turns out there was a distinct line between what Roman citizens got and what everyone else got. Crucifixion, for example, was a typical punishment for just about anything—unless you were Roman. If you were Roman, no matter what you did, the worst punishment was exile. They didn't practice capital punishment on citizens. I was surprised at that.
  • I went to a meeting of the mentors for the Mazie Foundation last night, and heard about the intense, insurmountable difficulties some of the students are facing due to soon-to-expire visas and lack of citizenship. Their futures are getting cut off before they even get started.
  • I told my son the other day not to take for granted the advantages he has just because he's white, male and American.

I can't pretend to any level of expertise on the larger political question of immigration. The town I live in is wildly diverse, with large populations both legal and otherwise from Brazil, Russia, Cambodia, India, and in a larger sense, I would hope each one is striving for legality. But when faced with a particular individual, like the student in the Mazie program, who has a dream and has to overcome huge obstacles I never had to face to achieving it, I just want the situation to be a bit more fair.

It's almost an instinctive reaction from within my heart somewhere—that desire for everyone to have the same opportunities as everyone else. I suppose it stems from a conviction that in the eyes of the Divine, we are all equally valued, cherished, delighted in, essential. Not one is meant to fall by the wayside neglected. Each of us is a divine being, a creation of Spirit, who has the totality of infinite Spirit to reflect and express. So why can't human institutions and structures embody that more?

Perhaps there's a belief in limitation that we need to overcome. I've heard people say there are limited resources, limited jobs, limited housing units, limited health care facilities. If these go to those who are here illegally, what will be left for those here legitimately? But many of those here legally don't want those jobs or houses. Needs are being met that advance the standard of living of particular individuals, even if it's not a standard that someone in my socioeconomic sphere would want. It's complicated to sort out humanly.

So I need to take it higher. The Bible talks about being "fellow-citizens with the saints." I love that image. Here's the passage:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph. 2:19).

My prayer this morning then is that even as we're sorting out what to do humanly, we remember that we're not only fellow-citizens with each other, but also with the saints. God is watching over His saints, not to make some more privileged than others, but that all will fully express Him in liberty, safety, abundance.


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