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Immigration in America – Part 4

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Is Crime by Illegal Aliens a Problem in the U.S? – Part Dos (see what I did there?)

Perhaps my numbers were too conservative when it came to those I used for illegal aliens. So I reran some calculations.

For comparison purposes, here is what I initially found:

Crime by Illegal Aliens (Conservative Numbers)

According to the Pew Research Center there were an estimated 11.1 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. in 2014 (pewresearch.org). During that year there were 177,960 convicted illegal aliens removed from the U.S. by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice.gov). Keep in mind these are just illegal aliens that were removed from the U.S.. This number does not include those allowed to stay after conviction. The ratio of Convicted Criminals removed by ICE:Total Estimated Number of Illegal Aliens is 1:62.37. That means that for every 1 illegal alien deported after being convicted of a crime there were an estimated 62.37 illegal aliens. Another way to put it is this: 1.6% of the illegal alien population in the U.S. are convicted criminals.

Let’s rerun the calculations looking at criminal illegal alien numbers

The highest number I found estimating the number of illegal aliens in 2014 was 12.1 million. Using 12.1 million for the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. in 2014, let’s look at the number of illegal criminals using the Cato Institute’s numbers. (If you have time read the whole study, it is fascinating!) They say the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimate 1.9 million non-citizen people have committed crimes in 2014 (cato.org). Again, not necessarily illegal aliens, but we’ll go with that number for now. Using these numbers, the ratio for illegal alien criminals:total illegal aliens is 1:6.37. That means for every 1 illegal alien criminal there are 6.37 illegal aliens or 15.7% of the alien population in the U.S. are convicted criminals.

Again, all of these numbers are estimates.

Let’s rerun the calculations looking at percentages of incarcerated illegal aliens

Let’s continue using 12.1 for our estimated illegal aliens in the U.S. number. The Cato Institute reports that .85% of people incarcerated in 2014 were illegal aliens. The problem with this number is that it does not include those placed on probation. In the same study, Cato reports that only 122,939 illegal aliens were incarcerated in 2014. That means that the ration of incarcerated illegal aliens:total number of illegal aliens is 1:98.42 people or 1.01% of the illegal alien population is incarcerated.

The Problem

The problem is that there is no one reporting actual complete numbers of illegal aliens who were convicted (not just incarcerated), not any that I could find anyway. Maybe they are stored in some super top secret data base somewhere. But like I asked last time, why? Why are these numbers not being reported? All I ever hear is so and so Republican saying the crime rate is extremely high or so and so Democrat saying the opposite. I just wanted to find the truth and the truth is not out there to be readily found.

The end.

Addendum: I actually did email the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics requesting the information I needed per the instructions on their website. Within 25 minutes I received an email telling me I need to email a different office. Which I did. Let’s see how many government offices I get shuffled to before I give up.

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Immigration in America – Part 3

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Is Crime by Illegal Aliens a Problem in the U.S.?

This is an issue that was brought to my attention so I thought I’d address it. I was genuinely curious. I mean, I know crime is a problem no matter who commits it but it is doubly painful if it could have been prevented because the criminal wasn’t even around to do the deed. If the burglar of your home was not even legally here in the first place it’s like rubbing salt into the wound. So anyhoo, I decided to look up some statistics on crime, both crimes committed by legal residents and by illegal aliens. Now, I am not a statistician. Hell, I can barely add 2 + 2 and get a correct answer so I am telling you right now that you should check my math. And please, respectfully let me know if I have an error. I’m just a stay at home mom trying to understand what’s going on in my country and share that info with you.

Hypothesis

Before I tell you what I found let me share with you what I thought I would find. Before I even looked at any statistical websites I had a sneaking suspicion that when I compared the crimes committed by illegal aliens to legal residents that I would find comparable percentages. My reason is that people are people across the world so it made sense to me that crime rates would be similar. Let’s see what I discovered.

The Limits of the Study

  1.  The data was hard to come by. I call shenanigans on every politician who throws around numbers but doesn’t make their sources available to the public. This is why it has taken five days to finish this post – I simply had to dig and dig and dig to find reputable sources that could give me what I needed.
  2. I am assuming that the numbers I am using are correct. I only used credible sources. Some numbers, like the number of illegal aliens, is an educated guess by the people who study such things. I did check multiple sources, however, and most agreed closely on the number.
  3. In order to be consistent I had to use a year in which I could find all the data I needed. I have picked 2014 because that was the year I was able to find the most complete numbers.
  4. Some of the numbers may be slightly off because of rounding. Where applicable I rounded to the nearest hundredth.
  5. I will repeat this again: I am neither a statistician nor a mathematician. I am more of the musician sort so it is completely possible that I made an error somewhere. I invite you to check my work and respectfully let me know if I have messed up.

What Did I Find?

I know you’re all dying to know and I’ll bet that at least some of you have skipped everything I wrote above just to get to the cold, hard facts.

Crime by the General Population

According to Census.gov, there were 319,951,923 people in the U.S. as of December 31, 2014. Of those people there was an estimated 11.1 illegal aliens living in the U.S. leaving 308,851,923 legal U.S. residents. Of those 308,851,923 people there were 11,205,833 arrests nationwide excluding traffic violations (fbi.com). Here’s were things get tricky: I could not find a straightforward answer for guilty convictions so I had to do some of my own calculations. According to Paul Coggins, a former U.S. Attorney who now has a private practice in Texas, “About 90 percent of the cases end with a plea bargain, and of those cases going to trial, about 90 percent end in a guilty verdict,” (DallasNews.com). 90% of 11,205,833 is 10,085,249.7 people that are guilty by means of a plea bargain. If you take 11,205,833 – 10,085,249.7 you get 1,120,583.3 people left. Of those remaining 90% are found guilty at trial or 1,008,524.97 people. To get the total amount of people found guilty you need to add 10,085,249.7 + 1,008,524.97 and you get 11,093,774.7 people who ended up with a guilty conviction in 2014. Then you need to subtract the number of illegal aliens from that number: 11,093,774.7 – 177,960 = 10,915,814.7 legal U.S. residents that were convicted of crimes. The ratio of Legal U.S. Residents Convicted: Total Population then is 1:27.84. This means that for every 1 legal U.S. resident there are 27.84 people convicted of a crime or 3.59% of the general legal population is considered a criminal.

Crime by Illegal Aliens

According to the Pew Research Center there were an estimated 11.1 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. in 2014 (pewresearch.org). During that year there were 177,960 convicted illegal aliens removed from the U.S. by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice.gov). Keep in mind these are just illegal aliens that were removed from the U.S.. This number does not include those allowed to stay after conviction. The ratio of Convicted Criminals removed by ICE:Total Estimated Number of Illegal Aliens is 1:62.37. That means that for every 1 illegal alien deported after being convicted of a crime there were an estimated 62.37 illegal aliens. Another way to put it is this: 1.6% of the illegal alien population in the U.S. are convicted criminals.

Surprise!

So, assuming my calculations are correct, the percentage of legal U.S. criminals is more than double the rate for illegal aliens. Well, call me misinformed. It just goes to show that you can’t trust everything that you read on Facebook, lol.

Morals and Ethics

Here’s where I tell you my concerns.

  1. Somebody is lying. Either my data is skewed (which is possible) or some one is not telling the truth about crime among illegals. The question is why are they lying?
  2. Why are these numbers not readily available? It seems pretty shady to me.
  3. While the above numbers for illegal aliens are less than the general legal population they still should not have been here in the first place to commit the crime. This does not mean I am anti-immigration. I do believe that some people should be allowed into the U.S. but our current system for immigration is broken and dated. I will go into this more in a future post. Unfortunately in the mean time we have the current system and if you aren’t supposed to be here then you are here illegally. I don’t like it but that’s the way it is…. for now. Hopefully by educating people we can work together to change the system.

The End.

Immigration in America – Part 2

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Why are kids being separated from parents at the border?

Well, let’s just start by opening Pandora’s Box. The problem I am finding with answering this question is that the issue has so many layers that every time you think you find an answer, you end up with more questions than you started with. There is no simple response but I will try to make this as plain as I can.

Let’s start by looking at the legal reason why kids are being separated from their parents. “The Attorney General directed United States Attorneys on the Southwest Border to prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, for 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), illegal entry,” (cbp.gov).

Let’s take a look at what 8 U.S.C. 1325 says:

“Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact,” will be fined or imprisoned. (law.Cornell.edu) I found that this is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine, up to six months in jail, or both. (AmericanImmigrationCouncil.org).

“Children whose parents are referred for prosecution will be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR),” (cbp.gov). I’m not saying it’s right or wrong right now, just letting you know what the law says. Furthermore the US Customs and Border Protection website says, “Children in HHS ORR custody are provided with appropriate care, including medical care, mental health care, and educational programs. Children are normally held in a temporary shelter or hosted by an appropriate family.” “While in HHS care, ORR begins the process of locating a sponsor for the child for discharge from federal custody.

  • A sponsor can be a parent, adult sibling, relative, or appropriate home that meets criteria for the safety of the child and continuation of any immigration proceedings.  A parent who is prosecuted and later released can be a sponsor and ask HHS to release his or her child back into his or her custody.
  • In Fiscal Year 2017, 90 percent of the children were released to a sponsor who was either a parent or close relative,” (cbp.org).

So basically, people who are found to be entering the country illegally are separated from their children while they are prosecuted. I can’t find the exact origin of this practice but it’s been going on for quite a while. The reason we are all of a sudden hearing about it is because President Trump has initiated a zero-tolerance policy on people entering the U.S. illegally. Now, every Tomas, Ricardo, and Harry are being detained when they cross at a spot other than a Port of Entry (POE) whereas in the past only some people were being detained or they were being arrested and then released to face court at a later date. This has resulted in a steep increase in the amount of children separated from their parents – over 2000 children since May, 2018. Now, here’s the deal: the President can choose to enforce a law if he wants to.

People from other countries are noticing this issue, too. The president of the United Nations Human Rights Council has weighed in on the topic of familial separation. On Monday, June 19, 2018, Zeid Ra’ad el Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “”People do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa,” indicating that the U.S. is in violating basic human rights by first arresting those seeking asylum and second separating children from their families (CNN.com).

Morals and Ethics

Here’s where I tell you my concerns. I get it that it’s the president is trying to secure our borders. My questions are as follows:

  1. Who are the President’s advisors? Someone should have told the President that the system was not equipped to handle that many people and cases as it exists today. It seems to me a better way to go about this would have been to fix the process first and then implement the procedures. The current system for allowing people into the country AND for deporting people is so backed up it’s ridiculous.
  2. The whole US departure from the UN Human Rights Council thing has me thinking: CNN reports, “The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed the separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border as “unconscionable” on Monday. “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in Geneva on Monday. “I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children,” (CNN). Isn’t it a little curious that the US pulls out of the Human Rights Council the very next day? I mean really? I’m not buying it. Yeah, I understand that the UN Human Rights Council has a habit of being anti-Israel and has turned a blind eye to countries that are known for human rights violations. The timing of the U.S. withdrawal, though, is suspect at best.
  3. Just because it is law doesn’t make it just. I don’t even know what to think about this one yet. I don’t know enough about how immigrants are sorted between the keepers and the throw-backs. But I just want to remind people that it is possible that a law could be unjust. Remember when black people were considered to be only 3/5 of a human being? Unjust, yet justified. I could go on about this one too but I’ll save that for a different post.
  4. The President recently signed an order saying that in the future, children and their parents will not be separated. Let’s refer to question one. Did the people in charge think this through? Are the facilities equipped to handle family units? Will this lengthen the time kids are going to be held? If so, do we have the funding in place to care for children for a longer period of time? Currently kids are held in the detention centers are there until they can be placed with a family member or an appropriate adult. Is this still going to occur? Or will the children stay with parents for the duration?
  5. Is it necessary to set limits on who can enter the U.S.? If so, what standards do we use to allow entry or to turn away? Also, if we set limits how do we enforce the law while maintaining the human rights of children caught in the middle?

I have some more questions but I’ll leave that for you to chew on for a while. Next time, I will probably be looking at the immigration system itself. Till then, this is….

The End

The Immigration Issue in America – Part 1

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So it’s been a while since I have updated. For those of you who don’t know – we are foster parents and have had as many as 5 kiddos at one time. We were a little busy. But I am dusting off the old blog to think through some issues going on in America today – namely Immigration in America. It’s funny because at first I was going to write the Immigration Crisis in America. Then I immediately realized how inflammatory that word ‘Crisis’ can be. I don’t intend this piece to support any side but to actually talk through what is going on and try to make sense of it all. Now having said that, I am sure to offend someone out there as this is such a hot button topic right now. Sorry, not sorry.

Does anyone even know the truth of what is happening? You can’t really believe anything you hear these days. Media is biased on way or the other. I tried to do some research to help get to the facts and issues of the matter by going to government websites. I will try to avoid persuasive language because, again, I just want to better understand not sway public opinion – at least until I understand the problem enough to form an educated opinion. There will be multiple posts to help understand what’s going on so try not to tar and feather me before I get to address the whole thing. Also, if you find an error, please be respectful in your comments and I will research and adjust when necessary.

So let’s start with some basic definitions based on what I’ve learned. Again, I am not saying anything is right or wrong at this point, just reporting the way things currently are:

Alien – any person who is not a citizen of the U.S. aka “Foreign National” (uscis.org)

Immigrant – “someone who comes to a country to set up permanent residence  a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence” (merriam-webster.com)

Asylee – someone who is already in the United States or at a point of entry who is seeking legal status. You must apply for asylum within one year of entering the U.S. They reasons for seeking asylum are as follows: “Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” (uscis.gov)

Refugee – someone outside of the U.S. seeking temporary legal status. Only people who are leaving their home country because “they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group,” and “is not firmly resettled in another country,” are considered.  (uscis.gov)

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – Part of the Immigration Act of 1990 (George H. W. Bush, President). TPS grants temporary immigrant status to people due to ongoing war, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary reasons. TPS is given to people of countries that are determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. TPS is granted in 6, 12, or 18 month increments at a time. TPS is not a way for people to gain permanent residency or citizenship. However, people in the U.S. because of TPS may apply for those things while here. Current South American countries with TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua (uscis.gov)

Lawful Permanent Resident – Any person legally living in the U.S. that is not a citizen. Aka “Green Card Holder” (uscis.gov)

Citizenship – To become a citizen at birth you must have been born in the U.S. or certain territories, or, if you were born out of the U.S., have parents who are U.S. citizens. To become a citizen after birth you must apply for citizenship through your parents or you must apply for naturalization (uscis.gov)

Naturalization – “the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA),” (uscis.gov)

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) – established in 1952  aka McCarran-Walter Act (both Democrats) was vetoed by President Harry S. Truman (Democrat) as being “un-American” and promoting discrimination. The veto was overturned by Congress. The act kept quotas for different countries as established in the Immigration Act of 1790. Eventually it listed, “which ethnic groups were desirable immigrants,” (wikipedia). “Before the INA, a variety of statutes governed immigration law but were not organized in one location. The McCarran-Walter bill of 1952, Public Law No. 82-414, collected and codified many existing provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law. The Act has been amended many times over the years, but is still the basic body of immigration law.” (uscis.gov)

Port of Entry (POE) – any place that the U.S. has sanctioned as a legal place for aliens and U.S. citizens to enter the country. “All district and files control offices are also considered ports, since they become locations of entry for aliens adjusting to immigrant status.” (uscis.gov) There are currently 332 total POE in the U.S. and the territories. 62 of them are in states bordering Mexico, but not necessarily on the border itself. 13 POE are in U.S. territories.

If you have any specific questions you want answers to, please leave them in the comments below. I will do my best to research and find real answers to them. Again, you may not like what you hear but if we know what the law actually says, then we can petition the government to change those laws. What I don’t find helpful is Facebook memes, mudslinging, and rumors that are found only in uneducated opinion and not in fact. Let’s work together to educate ourselves about the issue and work together to find a humane and adequate solution. The only thing I ask is that you are respectful to me and to each other.

The End.

29. Problems with The Sermon on the Mount

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Before we start addressing the text itself, I want to spend some time on the Sermon as a whole. It’s Jesus’ longest recorded sermon and, in my humble opinion, chock full o’ good stuff. However some people disagree with the validity of this portion of Scripture. There are several arguments but two of the biggest are:

  1. Jesus seems to be changing the Old Testament law.
  2. This seems to be a list of things to do to find life.

Let’s take the first statement: Jesus seems to be changing the Old Testament law. Jesus uses the phrase formula, “You have heard x but I tell you y,” six times (Matthew 5:21-48). The x being something that was considered law in the old testament and the y being Jesus’ new commandment. And if you take this section out of the Bible and read it alone and not in context with anything else, I could see where some people could be critical. It does appear that Jesus is changing the law BUT this is not what Jesus is doing here. In fact, right before this passage of Scripture he says,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, NIV)

In light that Jesus introduces that section with this disclaimer, if you will, I believe that we are to see him not as changing the law but instead expounding on it. Some Jews, the Pharisees and teachers of the law especially, had made it so important that people keep the law exactly the way it was written that they forgot the spirit with which it was given. I’ll unpack this more when we get to this section of the Sermon but suffice it to say that following the letter of the law without being mindful of the intent behind it is not honoring to God. Here we see Jesus taking the laws and not changing them, but revealing that intent.

The other “problem” some people criticize the Sermon for is that it is a list of works that must be done to gain eternal life. This is problematic because Paul teaches against a works-based faith. Just read the third chapter of Romans and you will quickly learn that works are not a means to eternal life. But I suggest that Jesus isn’t listing a bunch of stuff to do to be saved, rather a person who has been saved does these things out of love for God.  No, Jesus does not intend to provide a list of things to perform to get into heaven, rather he describes what a person who has eternal life looks like. So things like praying, fasting, and not worrying aren’t things to do to receive eternal life. It’s what you do because you have eternal life. It would be like me volunteering in a homeless shelter. Doing that isn’t going to get me into the Kingdom of God, but because I am already a citizen of the Kingdom, I want to love on those who are important to God.

So what does all of this mean to me? There will always be someone who disagrees with the validity of Scripture or challenge you on what it says. That is why it is important to educate yourself about these things. Even Satan knows the Bible and what it says. And, btw, God did not give us  brains and the capability to reason and think just to throw it aside and accept whatever people tell you. Read the Bible, and study for yourself! Don’t accept the lie that we have to have faith or reason and not both! One of the reasons I love writing this blog is because it forces me to read, research, reread, and think about what I believe!  Not everyone needs to write a blog but you should be studying some stuff on your own, just saying’.

Next time we will focus in on the first part of the Sermon itself, the section known as The Beatitudes. I am looking forward to sharing with you what I have learned, which was a lot. Until next time this is…

The End

27. Jesus the Servant

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So the last time we left Jesus, the Pharisees were plotting to kill him because he had healed, once again, on the Sabbath. Because of this Jesus was quick to get out of Dodge. Not because he didn’t want to die, but because it wasn’t time for him to die yet. After he left he was followed by a large crowd and Jesus healed everyone who was ill. Not just some, the text actually says all. This account is also found in Mark but we will be reading the account found in Matthew because it includes a bit of Messianic prophesy that is worth checking out:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”

(Matthew 12:15-21)

I specifically want to look at the bit of prophesy that is given to us. It comes from Isaiah 42:1-4. This particular passage is about someone God calls, “my servant”. This title, “my servant” is a special title of honor that was used to describe the likes of Moses, Joshua and David. It was also used in Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-7;50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. Now Israelites always assumed that they were the servant described but because of their wayward actions and blatant refusal to follow God and instead turn towards idols, they lost this honor of being God’s servants. Instead, these verses describe one person in whom God would find no fault- a perfect prototype of what a follower of God should look like. They are describing the Messiah, himself! The reason that Matthew, whose readership was mostly Jewish, often includes prophesy about the Messiah is to show them how Jesus is the 100% fulfillment of these prophesies. In other words, they didn’t have to keep looking for the promised Messiah because he was here as evidenced by their own Scriptures.

There are three times when Jesus is described by God as, “the one I love, in whom I delight.” The two other times occurred at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5).

Here’s a little rabbit trail for us to go down. No where in the Bible does it explicitly say that God is triune, or 3-in-1. This is a concept that was presented by early church fathers. One of the verses they use to support this idea (which for the record, I believe in) is verse 18 from our passage today, ” I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” Here we see the Father conferring the Holy Spirit on the Son. 3-in-1. Three persons of God, in one deity; somehow each unique, yet joined together.

Verse 18, and also 21, is interesting because God is clearly concerned about “the nations”. He is concerned about all peoples, not just the nation of Israel. He came to them first because he wanted them to be his people of promise but because they rejected him time and time again, he opened salvation to the world. This was a foreign idea to the Jews even though it was right there in Scripture. It’s like they picked and chose which descriptions of the Messiah they liked and conveniently forgot about the parts they didn’t. God clearly cares for Gentiles, or non-Jews… which is very good news for me!

The next part, “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets,” refers to his silence during his trial before the crucifixion. Jesus remained silent despite his accusers and their false accusations, despite the fact that he could have said one word and thousands of angels would have been there in an instant to rescue him. He was silent except for a few answers to questions.

Verse 20 is one of great mercy and grace,

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

One of the things the Pharisees never got was Jesus’ unending grace toward sinners. We can learn a lot from Jesus here. His job until he returns is to be gentle and love the sinner. I think here of the Westboro Baptist church. These people are not doing God’s work. God’s work, until Jesus returns, is to love on people. That doesn’t mean we overlook the sin. What Jesus did was look beyond the sin and saw the hurting person underneath. Hurting people are like a reed that is already bent from life’s windstorms or a candle struggling to stay lit. In mercy Jesus sat with these people, took the time to hear and really understand these people. And when I say “these people” what I really mean is you and me. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It doesn’t matter if we’ve wrongly gotten angry or if we’ve killed someone. We deserve a traitor’s death. We are no better or worse than anyone else and to assume otherwise is to fall into the trap of self-righteousness. Thank God, for his mercy and love! Thank God, for his patience with us! This is how he deals with us and this is how we are to deal with each other. Now there is a time when Jesus will come again and reign victorious over Satan and Evil. At that point it will be Jesus’ job to dole out justice to non-belivers and believers alike. It is never our job. It is never our responsibility to judge others. Period.

I’ll step down off my soap box for now. Until next time when we look at the commissioning of the the twelve apostles…

The End.

26. Stretch out your hand

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Sorry there was a break between postings. My laptop power cord was fried in a thunderstorm and we were without a computer for a few days. Fortunately it was just the power supply and not the whole laptop. Praise God! As a reminder, last time we found the disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Those pesky Pharisees were there to give them a hard time about “working” on the Sabbath and Jesus promptly rebukes them. This time we will learn about another healing on the Sabbath. I have to tell you that I knew Jesus did this stuff on the Sabbath but I didn’t realize how often he did it before this study. I think almost every time we read about Jesus healing, he is doing so on the Sabbath. Think maybe he is trying to drive home a point with the Pharisees? Too bad they never get it! This time we find Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Matthew makes it sound like it is later the same day as they were in the grain fields while Mark and Luke both say it occurred on a different day. To me it’s one of those details that don’t really matter if they all agree or not; it’s the story that follows that is important. Let’s read:

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. (Matthew 12:9-14)

Last time we saw the focus was on the disciples breaking the law. This time we see Jesus as the “law-breaker”. They are in the synagogue and there is a man there with a bad hand. If you read the Gospel of Hebrews, an apocryphal book, the man is described as being a mason and it being his right hand that was injured. Whether that is true or not is up in the air although the way the original language is written it implies that the man’s hand was not an injury from birth. Being a mason it is quite possible that he hurt himself on the job.

Regardless, the guy had a bum hand. And the Pharisees saw this as a perfect trap for Jesus. They ask him a loaded question intended to trip up Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Their laws said that healing was only allowed in life or death situations, otherwise the patient needed to wait until Sunday for help (Jewish Sabbath was Saturday). Instead of answering their question. Jesus asks his own question about their own laws, “If any of you has a sheep that falls in a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” His question is just as loaded as the Pharisees. Even though the sheep was in no danger in the pit, just stuck, they all would have rescued the sheep. Jesus’ point is this: If God would overlook you breaking the Sabbath to save a sheep, how much more so is would he accept healing a person, a child of God, on the Sabbath? Jesus uses their own laws against them.

I’m not sure if we’ve covered this before or not so I’ll take a minute to explain something here. You may be wondering what was the big deal about the Sabbath? Exodus 31:13-17 says,

“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

“‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

Anyone who doesn’t keep the Sabbath was worthy of death. The big problem is what does “keeping the Sabbath holy” mean. God clearly says not to do any work on the Sabbath but he doesn’t make stipulations as to what that includes. The Pharisees had comprised an oral tradition called The Talmud that had a bunch of things that they considered work. Things like healing on the Sabbath except under life or death situations was against the law. The Pharisees considered that breaking the Sabbath law, but God never said that. He just says not to do work. Right before our Matthew passage from today we see Jesus quoting Hosea 6:6 which says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” This clearly captures the heart of God. Yes, he wants the Sabbath kept holy but if there is a chance for a man to be restored to health then, for the love of mercy, heal him!

So for the love of mercy, Jesus heals him. He tells the man to stretch out his hand and when he did it was completely restored. This was pretty much the last straw for the Pharisees. If you notice it says they went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. From now on Jesus is a marked man.

Legalism is more than just keeping the law, although that is a big part of it. Legalism occurs when the keeping of the law causes an attitude of self-righteousness. If you think that keeping God’s laws or even just being a good person is enough to get you into heaven you are going to be in for a rude awakening at judgement day. It’s not that law keeping is bad. It’s actually a good thing but when you depend on that as a means of salvation then you are missing the boat! Salvation comes through faith alone.  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is no other way to God than through faith in Jesus Christ. We keep the laws because we love him, not because it is a requirement for salvation.

The End.