Worthy of Respect
Author: Chris Johnson  
20140703
 

He had a life once. We don't know much about him, but he probably loved soccer. He probably lived in a tin shack on the side of a steep hill, or maybe a simple little house in town with no modern appliances. There's a good chance he saw his father beat his mother. His father was almost certainly not affectionate to him. If he was fortunate, and his mother was able to get a job as a maid or his father as a janitor or farmhand, his family may have been able to scrape together enough money to pay for his books and uniform and send him to school. If he had younger siblings, it's unlikely that they were able to go as well. He had probably never tasted candy or held a TV remote or bent the limbs of an action figure.

He most likely had a very difficult, but definitely very short, life.

When the 11 year-old boy's body was found, many reacted strongly.

"Oh well, buzzards gotta eat, worms too."

"Too bad. Should have stayed home. "

"and the problem is???"

"I know this sounds heartless but GOOD."

"Buzzards gotta eat."

Sounds like a good start to me."

"I bet the coyotes and wildlife love dried jerky....."

You see, 11 year-old Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez of Huehuetenango, Chiantla, Guatemala was sent with a smuggler by his parents to enter the United States illegally and his body was found about a mile from the Mexico/US border.

These responses are comments on the news story.

This country has an illegal-immigration problem. Apparently, it also has an anti-illegal-immigration problem.  Not because it's wrong to be against illegal immigration, but because it's evil to wish a miserable death on 11 year-olds.

These comments hit me especially hard, because I've gone on two mission trips to Guatemala and built relationships with little kids like Gilberto. When I think of his little body baking in the sun, "feeding coyotes," I see tough little Govani who played tag with us and Henri who was deaf and would have been his whole life if not for the ministry we worked with, or little Willy who peed on my friend when he picked him up, and couldn't stop smiling about it.

The thing about illegal-immigrants is that they are people. They have stories and experiences and pasts that we can't imagine, but it's awful easy for us comfy American citizens who have never known a day without sugar, let alone without food to look past that and see a statistic - just another illegal.

Thank God, I know that most conservatives aren't that vile. Thankfully, I know that many conservatives are Christians, and are thus called to love "the least of these," like Gilberto. Who is lesser than someone who is not welcomed by the legal system? When Christ said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," did he add a caveat - that he was "legal?"  The commenter who said, "GOOD," actually had a picture of Jesus as her avatar. As if the Christ who said "let the little children come unto me," would say, "let the little children die on their way to America."

Whatever America's immigration policies may be - and no matter what we wish them to be - at the personal level, the Bible calls us to love these people. Not to fantasize about stacking their carcasses on the White House lawn (as other commenters have suggested).

The immigrants we read about every day are not just statistics or political talking points. They're people. That is something we cannot afford to forget, because to do so is not only unchristian, but inhumane.

The death and dying of children attempting to cross our borders must be stopped, but so must our borders be made secure.   How to do that is the looming question.  

On the eve of this Fourth of July, may our hearts be filled with gratitude for God’s amazing grace shed abroad upon this great country, but may we humble our hearts as never before and focus on giving ourselves to solve this horrendous crisis that has upended – and ended – so many precious lives.



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