"You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." - Deuteronomy 10:19, NRSV
Recorded in each of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is a narrative of young children being brought to Jesus so that Jesus might bless them. Tension arises in this narrative as Jesus' disciples vehemently oppose this action, immediately castigating all who would dare to trouble Jesus with these uninvited children. Offering a stern reprimand of his disciples in return, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it," (Mark 10:14-15, NRSV). Then Jesus embraced each child, placed loving hands upon them, and blessed each one of them. In this narrative, Jesus not only shows radical hospitality to these children, but Jesus makes their experience authoritative, even over his own disciples', with the children becoming recipients of no less than the Kingdom of God.
Were Jesus' rebuke and strong actions on behalf of these children born exclusively out of his moral leanings and perceptions of justice, or does its epistemology lie elsewhere? Like most things Biblically considered, this is open to debate. Still, when considering Jesus' own childhood experience, and the related trauma accompanying that experience, it could be argued that Jesus' overwhelming sensitivity of the needs and experiences of children was born out of his own experience as a migrant child.
Every Advent season, the narrative is retold of Jesus' birth. The retelling of this ancient story often centers around the miraculous: Mary's immaculate conception, an illuminate celestial body resting perpetually above the manger, and angels appearing in chorus to shepherds tending their sheep in the fields at night. Often neglected in the story's retelling is that Christ was born with a bounty on his head and that a government-sanctioned infanticide of all male children under two years of age was enacted. In order to save their child's life, Joseph and Mary had to flee with Jesus across the border of neighboring Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18).
Therefore, before Jesus could even walk or talk, Jesus was a migrant child. As Jesus grew in age and in wisdom, surely he became knowledgable of the threats made against his early life and of the tragic loss of life back home that made his crossing of the border a necessity.
National debates are presently raging over the thousands of Central American children who have journeyed across U.S. borders fleeing the violence that has claimed so many lives - yes, even the lives of children - in their home countries. What should be done with these children? Should they be granted refuge, or should they be returned?
A prominent pastor in Dallas, my home, stated in a national interview that the children should not be allowed to cross the border. He also stated that Jesus would support his position. Given that Jesus himself was as a migrant child, supporting this pastor's position would make Jesus one of the biggest hypocrites in recent memory.
Personally, I believe that Jesus would do for the migrant children of Central America what he did for the uninvited children brought to him two millennia ago. Jesus would rebuke all - yes, even his disciples - seeking to block these children. Then Jesus would embrace the children, lay healing hands upon them, and bless them with the blessings of hospitality and welcome.
Two weeks ago, in anticipation of a large group of migrant children's arrival in Dallas, the children's ministry at my church wrote letters of welcome to be delivered to the migrant children. In doing, the truth of Scripture was once again fulfilled. Truly the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
We would all do well to follow their example.