The debate about workers who cross United States borders illegally cries out for solutions that transcend nationality. While people argue whether aliens who have broken the law deserve the benefits of US citizenship, education, and healthcare, it is helpful to see that the Bible offers a higher, unifying concept that is basic to a just and satisfying resolution.
In some respects, biblical times were not unlike our own. US citizens today, like Roman citizens in antiquity, enjoy rights and opportunities for which outsiders yearn. Rome was the superpower of Jesus' day, and it exerted economic and cultural influence just about everywhere, so Roman citizenship was unquestionably important.
For example, on one occasion the Apostle Paul's Roman citizenship protected him from a violent death (see Acts 23:10, 27). Against this political and cultural backdrop, Jesus taught about another country - the kingdom of God - often through the use of parables. To him, the kingdom was not some far-off realm of imagination, but a presence at work in the midst of everyday life. He declared, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
Then and now, those who acknowledge God's authority in their lives recognize themselves as citizens of that kingdom. What about those who don't? Like the son in one of Jesus' parables, who refused his father's invitation to celebrate his brother's return, some people exclude themselves from enjoying God's presence (see Luke 15: 11-32). Pride and fear turn them away, even at the moment God's welcoming arms enfold them.
The fact is, the kingdom's doors are open to everyone. Christian Science teaches that we all live in the presence of God. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 361).
God never meant us to be isolated from Him, compartmentalized from one another, or indifferent to the world around us. Consider the account of creation in Genesis 1. It describes God assessing the outcome of each day of creation as "good." But when every element of the created order is in place, working together harmoniously, then and only then does God pronounce the result "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God thereby establishes a network of connections among all of His children.
God created us, and we are His children, so we are brothers and sisters in the kingdom. Our true identity is spiritual. We reflect God, Spirit, so we are far more than we appear to be humanly - purer, stronger, more confident and complete. He loves us because absolute, unconditional love is His nature. As we reflect and express that love, we quite naturally love one another.
In one sense, we are all aliens in this world - individuals with another, higher citizenship, seeking to drop a human view of ourselves as unworthy, sinful, separated from God, and in so doing claiming our true identity as His children, forever at one with Him. Yet to God, there are no aliens, no outsiders. There is only His universal family, joined together as "very good."
Citizenship in the kingdom of God is not a prerogative of strong intellect or aristocracy or exceptional piety. Rather, it is defined by service to others. Even those of different backgrounds, like the Samaritan who showed compassion toward a stranger lying wounded on the roadside between Jerusalem and Jericho, are welcomed into its community (see Luke 10:25-37).
Because the kingdom of God is spiritually universal - not physically localized, but infinite - nobody has to go anywhere to gain access to divine resources. The path to these resources is already within the hearts of those who turn to Him. God is able to lead them to provision, direction, and safety.
We can find a solution to problems such as immigration when we acknowledge the kingdom of God in our midst.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.