Today, I am reading and commenting on Zechariah 7-10.
A couple of years after his first vision some of the returned Exiles came to Zechariah and asked if they should continue to hold a ceremony of mourning for the destroyed Temple now that rebuilding had begun. Zechariah’s response was that they were not, and had not been, fasting for God, but for themselves. The same thing was true of their feasts and celebrations. While Zechariah was chastising them, I do not think he was telling them they had been doing wrong in doing this. It is not enough to hold the ceremonies of worshiping God…for that matter the ceremonies are for us. But if we want to truly worship God, there are other things we need to do, things which these ceremonies are supposed to remind us to do. Zechariah gives us a list which pretty much sums up what God wants from us: “Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” A little later Zechariah gives us another similar list of things God requires of us: “Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. 17 Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth.” If we do these things, we will not be far off no matter what else we do.
I usually avoid writing about applying the passages I am reading to current political issues, but this is one where some well meaning people use this passage to support their position without having looked at all of the ways in which it applies. The phrase “Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor” (and other similar passage from elsewhere in the Bible) is brought up from time to time in the discussion about illegal immigration in the United States. It is appropriate for Christians to consider this passage when they think about how they deal with immigrants. The argument is usually made that deporting illegal immigrants is oppressing the foreigner. There is some merit to this argument, although I do not think that I agree. What is generally overlooked by those who make that argument is the degree to which illegal immigrants are routinely oppressed in this country. Those who employ illegal immigrants often pay them substandard wages and otherwise treat them badly. The evidence I have seen suggests that lax enforcement of immigration laws does not alleviate this abuse, but actually makes it worse. One of things that many of those who make the argument I am speaking against typically overlook is that many of their allies in the campaign for lax enforcement of immigration laws are also campaigning against allowing more immigrants to enter the country legally. This issue is a difficult one for me as a Christian, because I do believe that we need to be caring for the poor and downtrodden and illegal immigrants are among the poorest in this country. On the other hand, I also believe that failing to enforce the law leads to injustice, which as a Christian I also oppose. This is one of the reasons that I believe that as a Christian I cannot be involved in politics.