Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Leviticus 23; Matthew 19:17; Acts 15:1-29; Galatians 1:1-12; Hebrews 8:6; Revelations 12:17.
Last Monday America celebrated its freedom. In this great country we have many freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to worship how we choose, freedom to live wherever we want, freedom to vote, and freedom to bear arms—just to name a few.
Many of the people who celebrated Independence Day were born into this country. But there were countless others who chose to come here. And it took great effort for them to become American citizens. They couldn’t just choose to come across the boarder and start a new life here. There were requirements they had to meet. According to the Immigration Law Center, L.L.C., this is what it takes to become a U.S. citizen: 1
1. Are at least 18 years old and a lawful permanent resident ("green card" holder);
2. Have resided continuously in the United States, having been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, for five years immediately preceding the date you filed your application for naturalization, or
3. Have, after having been removed from conditional permanent resident status, based upon your marriage to a U.S. citizen, having resided in the United States for one year after the date the condition was removed;
4. Have resided continuously in the United States at all times after your application to the time and date of your admission for citizenship;
5. Have, during all periods of time referred to above, been and still are a person of good moral character;
6. Have no outstanding deportation or removal order and no pending deportation or removal proceeding;
7. Have the ability to read, write, speak, and understand simple words and phrases in English;
8. Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government;
9. Are attached to, and can support, the principles of the U.S. Constitution and can swear allegiance to the United States.
Also, applicants are required to take a literacy test to assess their knowledge of the English language. And they are required to take a test of their knowledge of U.S. history and government. If they fail the tests, they are given a second chance to take them within 90 days. But if they fail a second time, they may be prohibited from re-applying for one year.
Some believe that we make it too hard for aliens to become citizens. Others feel that we don’t make it hard enough. But there needs to be some kind of process that allows only those who truly want to become citizens, and who acquire a fair bit of knowledge about this great country of ours.
The early Christian church faced similar issues. The first converts were all Jews who had strong beliefs about circumcision and Jewish festivals. But the New Testament doesn’t give any indication that they were asked to give up these practices in order to become Christians. Yet questions arose when the Gentiles wanted to join this movement. Questions such as: Should they be required to be circumcised? Should they be required to keep all Jewish laws, even though they were Gentiles?
Then there were the laws carried over from the Old Testament: the moral law, the ceremonial law, the civil law, the statutes and judgments, and the health laws. As Christianity expanded, so did the thinking of its members. They came to realize that “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). They finally understood what we still need to understand today: that salvation doesn’t come through observing rituals and obeying laws, but through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This was the “better promises” recorded in Hebrews 8:6—the promise of salvation through His righteousness alone.