Jason Lief, a professor at Northwestern College and an immigration mobilizer for the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice, hosted a series of presentations on the biblical framework for immigration at Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, in September 2020.
Over the course of two nights, Lief presented two talks: “Immigration, Human Dignity, and the Image of God” and “Love God, Honor the Emperor.”
On one of the nights, he spoke about how the apostle Paul wrote in Romans about the need to obey civil authorities.
In Romans 13:1, Paul wrote, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
“Paul has this assumption (that governing authorities) are there in some way to promote human flourishing,” Lief said.
He also spoke about 1 Peter 2:16-17, which says, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
Addressing the attendees scattered throughout the sanctuary, Lief said, “I think it’s fair to say that none of us in this room would look at our governing authorities and say that they’re always getting it right or that all of our laws are seeking human flourishing. … Our job in politics, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, is to seek laws that seek human flourishing. … What does it look like to create an immigration system that is closer to human flourishing, closer to justice, than not?”
Attendance at Covenant’s evening gatherings ranged from 20 to 30 people, a small enough number to allow them to practice social distancing in their sanctuary in addition to other health protocols. Pastor Joel Kok said the church devotes its evening gatherings to hearing testimonies and offers a chance to learn about causes, always including time for dialogue.
The church decided to host the two-part series on immigration because “we think immigration matters,” Kok said, “and we welcome a presentation that allows for dialogue. We also want our congregation to stay connected to the Office of Social Justice and our denomination in general.”
Mary Dengler, who attended the series, said she was impressed with Lief’s presentations. “He stressed social justice toward undocumented workers,” Dengler said, also noting the need for immigration reform. “I’d urge that the legalization process be streamlined,” she said, “and in the meantime, people should be trained to help (immigrants) work through the paperwork.”
To learn more about hosting an immigration mobilizer at your church, connect with Kendra David at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can watch recordings of the presentations at Covenant CRC on the Office of Social Justice’s YouTube channel.