Kentucky Baptists are a missional people. Many of our churches work together in close cooperation with other friends in their local associations to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. The missional mandate is a corporate vision for all kinds of people to respond to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 2:11; 3:5).
Church members who relate to one another as eternal friends of God provide a watching world with a glimpse of heaven. Jesus, for example, speaks to His beloved disciples, saying, “Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15). Christ calls us to friendship so that we can befriend others.
J. Deotis Roberts rightly maintains that “our task as members of the body of Christ is to assure all sorts of persons that they are valued, they are made in God’s image. ‘God loves you and so do I’ must not be a trite statement but an expression of real compassion, supported by an effort to uplift those who have lost their sense of worth.”
Many of you, like me, are probably lamenting the ways in which some leaders speak about disinherited image-bearers looking for a better life. Sometimes these dear folks are treated with malice by those endowed with military might in their home countries, inducing a desire for shelter under the wings of nations that tout freedom and equality for all.
As Christians, we should respond appropriately to the undocumented immigrants among us. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas questions the use of “illegal alien” since it connotes a pejorative idea of a person who possesses a deviant disposition without any evidence to support the claim.
Professed Christians who imbibe this prejudicial posture forget Paul’s admonishment to “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:5-6).
I realize discussing immigration, the Church and the Bible might be a touchy subject for some, but I would be remiss to bypass this opportunity. When we say, “we are better together,” we cannot forget the under-engaged ethnic congregations that are often overlooked. Hence, I am compelled to challenge friends who have allowed nativism to steer their hearts and tongues toward actions that might hinder the church’s witness.
At the end of the day, Kentucky Baptist churches should remember that every believer was God’s enemy, deserving wrath, before being reconciled to him through the death of His Son (Rom 5:9-10). Let us be-come friends to the friendless for His glory and our good.
Curtis Woods is the interim co-executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.