I grew up in Los Gatos, a small town adjacent to San Jose in central California, an area rich with the heritage of Old Mexico. Many of the city names that surrounded our family home revealed a Hispanic origin. I was raised around Mexican people and their culture. I learned to eat hot peppers at a very young age. My developing taste buds were forged on hand-made tortillas and beans. The tortillas were warmed over hot cooking stones during the lunch break as I worked in the orchards that surrounded our home.
My father hired men known by the culturally offensive term, “wet backs”, a term used to describe those whose backs became wet because they swam across the Rio Grande in search of a better life for their families. I learned the concept of the siesta was not of Mexican origin, but something imported from a North Africa influenced Spanish culture whose Conquistadors invaded Mexico long before it was Mexico.
Each summer in my youth, I picked fruit alongside Mexican families in the orchards of the Santa Clara Valley and swung a pick and shovel with Mexican day laborers on my father’s construction sites. I never met a Mexican who was lazy. I played in mud puddles made warm by my native California sun with the children of hard working Mexican families. My familiarity and friendship with these good people erased my suspicion of them. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a Mexican pastor who said to me, “If I cut your arm you would bleed Mexican.”
Why do I share this part of my personal history? I share it because I want us to understand the Kingdom of God has no boundaries, politics or ethnic-based restrictions, no matter what the news pundits, angry politicians and their followers want you to believe. I hope what I am writing is read with an understanding that comes from a place far beyond the cry for reinforced borders and a reformed immigration policy. I am writing about a people whom I honor. If we get drawn into the frustrated and angry narrative that has infected our culture we will lose our voice in the stormy sea of our cultural debate where no one ever emerges from such debates a winner.
The family of Joseph crossed the border of Egypt in search of food and a better life. We honor that journey, but somehow look down on those in our day who want a piece of our abundance. I want to be careful the painful journey of others who seek a better life is not high-jacked by the fear of remote worst-case scenarios or the need to align ourselves with the safety of popular sentiment. This way of thinking reduces people down to the dismissive status of an enemy instead of a people who, like us, toil and sweat for a better life.
The Kingdom of God is taking advantage of our cultural expansion and offering us new and unique opportunities to love the marginalized. This expansion may be an affront to the dominant culture because it can appear to threaten the status quo or the memory of an America that no longer exists. God is asking us to embrace something much larger that represents His heart and His Kingdom as the mission field of the world is crossing our borders in search of something more.