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By John Pierce

Over the years I’ve made note of certain word combinations to avoid. Among them are “experimental aircraft” and “local rapper.” One hurts the ear; the other can hurt a lot more than that.

Two other words that should never go together are “selfish” and “Christianity.” Yet it seems that some Christian people often put self-interest ahead of compassion.

That has been true in the debate over immigration reform — with polls showing that evangelical Christians are less supportive than other religious groups of allowing undocumented immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship. 

According to recent report from Religion News Service, however, attitudes among many conservative Christians are changing very fast — whenever the issue gets personal. One example, among several, comes from the expansive and active First Baptist Church of Orlando.

The change of mind among believers there did not result from careful prayer and Bible study about welcoming strangers — or from a fresh examination of the impact undocumented workers have on the economy or the impact aggressive actions against such immigrants have on family life. No, it was something more personal than that.

A beloved family in the church was facing deportation, according to the article. And pastor David Uth said it changed the attitudes of a lot of people in his congregation.

“We’ve sensed in our church this growing understanding that immigration has a face,” said Uth. “It has a name. It has a story.”

Christian compassion should not wait until it’s OUR friends, OUR church or OUR business that feels the pain. A part of being Christian is having the sensitivity to see the faces and hear the stories of those we don’t know personally — and to care about what is happening to them.

Whether those who suffer are sitting on the pew next to us or in another part of the world, our default should be set on care and concern. There is no such thing as selfish Christianity.

Everything Jesus said and did calls for shifting attention from one’s own interests to the needs of others. Yet, so often, evangelical Christians come down on the side of self-interest and fear when it comes to social change.

What should scare us the most, however, is any attempt to tie self-interest to following Jesus. They just don’t fit.



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