This is the week where Christians throughout the world celebrate Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday and culminating in the Resurrection. There is one aspect that may sometimes be overlooked but is deeply important to the ethical Christian stance in our modern world- Jesus’ clearing of the Temple and the implications this has on the way we view immigrants and our border.
Most people are aware of the story of Jesus clearing the temple of the moneychangers after he was welcomed into Jerusalem to the cries of Hosanna. Some more conservative commentators might focus on these individuals defiling the temple from its more holy purpose. It was more about where they were conducting their business rather than the actual business practices. Other more progressive individuals might look at it as a condemnation of their whole system of economics that exploits others-particularly one that is sanctioned by religion.
Both of these views may have merit, but it is essential that we do not overlook where this money changing was taking place and who it was primarily affecting. It was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles and the brunt of the likely exorbitant exchange rates was affecting the outsiders and foreigners coming in to worship. As Colin Kerr pointed so poignantly this past week in his sermon, Jesus’ anger was not necessarily because the moneychangers were linking their business and the temple (in fact, their role was necessary), but rather it was that they were crowding out and exploiting the foreigners as they were seeking to worship.
This is of course just one of many examples in the Gospels of Jesus siding with the outsider and foreigner (in this instance to the point of the actual destruction of property) against those insiders and nationalists who would disregard and disdain the foreigners amongst them.
We can just overlook this and continue to uphold xenophobic attitudes while claiming to follow Jesus, but if we do that it calls into question exactly what Messiah we are following. It is a somewhat tragic irony that during this Holy Week the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, sent his first bus of asylum seekers (who he conveniently calls illegal immigrants) and dropped them off in DC as a stunt. Unfortunately, far too many Christians in the U.S. applaud these measures and see them as being “tough on the border.” However, these are the values of nationalism based in a framework of fear; they are the opposite of the path of Jesus. This year as we celebrate Holy Week, we can’t hide behind talking about the “complications and nuances” of immigration policy. Rather, to follow Jesus means to advocate for the foreigner, especially the asylum seeker and refugee among us.