What Does it Mean to do Good?

 In Telling a Better Story

December 14, 2021

By: Christy Staats

Psalm 37:3 exhorts us, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” 

David reminds us over and over throughout the Psalm that our hope, anchor, trust and salvation are to be found in the Lord. As a result of hoping in God, God’s people should live distinctively.  

  • We are to speak what is just (v30)
  • Seek the peace (v37) 
  • Give generously (v21) 
  • Be meek (v11) 
  • Refrain from anger and wrath 
  • Do not fret (v8) 

We are reminded that it is better to have little and be righteous than be wealthy and be wicked (v 16-17), and “do good,” is repeated as bookends to the passage. (v 3) (V 27)  

I keep thinking about this passage as I think about my recent trip to the El Paso/Juarez part of the US-Mexico border.  

What does it mean to do good as an individual, a church, and as a country? How do we continue to keep our trust in the Lord?  

While I was there, I met simple churches on both sides of the border that were not wealthy but were doing good to those who were seeking asylum. These people were fleeing crime, poverty or war, unsure whether they would be able to access a better life but still looking for one. On both sides of the border, these churches were meeting basic needs, schooling children, housing people, feeding them, helping them connect with family in the US or being a haven for months or more as they wait in Mexico.  

It was the Church being the Church. It was beautiful and humbling to be in the presence of Christians offering in meekness what they had. We need to offer beds, serve hot meals, and welcome people with the love of Christ one on one, church to stranger, neighbor to neighbor. 

The other part of doing good is a macro level need that struck me in a conversation with three members of US Border Patrol that we spoke with one afternoon. 

The Border Patrol agents collectively chuckled when one of my colleagues asked“What do you think about politicians who say that we can’t address immigration reform until we secure the border?”  

“What does it mean to secure the border?” these 15-17-year veterans of Border Patrol asked. They went on to ask, “How do you quantify that? Does it mean no one comes? No one ever gets through without authorization?”

One of them, a father, talked about how there would always be parents who are seeking a better life, coming to us for an opportunity to protect their kids from terrible things. Because of that, he said that we will never stop people from coming.  

What does it mean to do good? What does it mean for our lawmakers to do good?  

A phrase like “secure the border” can be empty without concrete meaning. It is a way for our lawmakers to not pass good policies that would do good. It is sometimes a way for us to pass the responsibility to someone else rather than doing good with the opportunity at hand. We have Dreamers who have known no other country but this one, who remain in legal limbo unless a permanent solution like the Dream Act is passed. We have hospitals lacking doctors and farms lacking farmworkers who need immigration reform to provide services – fruit and vegetables and medical care that serve not only immigrants but every American.  

As long as phrases are used that can’t be quantified, we can pass on the responsibility and opportunity to do good. For most people coming to our border, there was no other way they could legally access a route to America. Asylum, which can only be asked for once someone steps foot in the US was the only route. While not everyone qualifies for asylum, lawmakers could do good by increasing the number of asylum judges, anticipating the crises that are sending people to our border (like the Haitians crossing the Darien gap recently), and having a long-term plan for influxes of people in desperate situations. We could also address the border by increasing visa categories so someone has a category of visa they can apply for and come here through a regulated route and a flight. 

We can do good to those seeking asylum at our border by having the resources, judges and systems in place to properly give them a chance to seek asylum humanely. Churches and non-profits can work with Border Patrol to care for those fleeing the worst while also keeping our country safe and upholding our laws. We can fix our broken and outdated immigration system by passing immigration reform now. 

Trust in the Lord and do good. We can show our trust in God and do good by being generous with our time and resources to care for those asking us for help like churches in El Paso and Juarez are doing. We can also urge our lawmakers to not delay but pass needed immigration reforms that would be kind to people, address our broken system, and do good to those who are both here and on the move.  

Christy Staats is from Stow, Ohio, and went to Miami University. She worked as a missionary with Cru for 15 years, 11 of which were in the UK and is now affiliate staff. She helped create Crossings, a refugee ministry for her church in 2015 and Cru’s IIR (int’l, immigrant and refugee) initiative simultaneously. It was in training churches in northeast Ohio in cross cultural ministry to help them get involved in welcoming refugees that she discovered our broken our immigration system. She now does advocacy work that includes mobilizing churches, encouraging distinctly biblical responses to the challenges and opportunities of immigration in the U.S. She is finishing her Masters in Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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