Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II: Who Is My Neighbor?

The director of the Presbyterian Church USA’s Public Witness, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry speaks about the biblical meaning of neighbor and family and how it shapes the perspective of some faith communities on comprehensive immigration reform.


  • Erica

    Well stated!

  • Charles Dodd

    I think Dr. Nelson stated the issue very well, and I believe most people in this country realize that we are a nation of immigrants and a “melting pot” of different cultures. We desperately need some type of immigration reform so that the process to get into this country could be expedited somehow. Most people in this country believe we are a nation of laws and becoming a citizen of this country is is something great and must be done legally.

  • Angelstarspeaks

    Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done,
    and by what we have left undone.

    We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
    We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

    For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will,
    and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

  • Christy Wareham

    This is smart, articulate, calm — not reactive, shrill or hysterical — commentary, in prophetic voice, about the way things in the world we have created ARE and about the world Christ imagines faithfulness SHALL BRING.

    I pray many blessings upon the ministry of the Reverend Dr. Nelson.

  • steve woods

    Immigrants used to arrive by the boat load, wait in the harbor or in the city of landing and be processed into the country. They stayed in their local area, learned the language, learned about the country and ultimately passed the immigration tests and became citizens. I personally know many who came through this process and have fullfilled our countries and our Christian dreams.
    Today many immigrants have paid professional smugglers to be brought into cities illegally. Their pirmary purpose is to make as much cash as possible and wire it home to their families free from their home country and USA taxes. They have no desire to become Americans. When they come in contact with our laws, government and citizens they know to quickly declare their immigrant status to further dodge responsibility.
    I can love these folks and still hold them up to our country and state laws. I can love them and still send them back home. I can love them and still work towards blocking their re-entry to our country. I can and do pray for them and wish them well as this is my christian nature.
    Yet I am persecuted by my church (PCUSA) because I do not support the “freedom” of these illegal immigrants to run free throughout our cities and our country. Isn’t there accountability for someone who made a concious choice to break into our home? Then why not for someone who conciiously broke into our country? How is it that PCUSA expects me to love one more than the other?
    Our immigration process is tricky and challenging, no doubt. But I also know a family who just completed this process in less than 6 months and celebrated becoming citizens just 2 weeks ago. So, It is not impossible for those who really want it.
    My point is that our God love us… AND disciplines us because of that love. I love my children AND discipline them in that same love. I also love my neigbor the same way that God has shown me to love and that I expect to be loved. Yes, there is forgiveness, but ther must also be repentance first.

  • Connie

    Dr. Nelson’s comments are quite timely and accurate. I pray God will help all of us who are called “the children of God” learn how to respond out of our faith rather than our fear.

  • Eileen

    We ignore the study of history at our peril, in many issues, not just this. But here, let us look backward to a time when “INAA “appeared in most newspaper want ads, “Irish Need Not Apply.” During that time, look at the Five Points district of New York City, where jobless immigrants literally fought each other for survival. Lawless indeed it was. The prior residents of the city surely felt menaced. Perhaps some hoped, like Pharoah, to drown all the new-born infants of this alien, rising class, which ultimately became a pillar of the middle class that contributed mightily to the building of this nation which now stands as a beacon drawing so many who see it as their Promised Land.
    As the beleagured Israelites were repeatedly admonished in scripture to include the alien in the mercy of their social justice, shall we not find ways also?
    This is NOT a simple problem that will have just one solution. But before we spout, we might also investigate:
    1. How the United States acquired some of its lands that border today’s Mexico.
    2. How to stem the tide of drugs and the violence of their traffickers, beginning with a study of the Netherlands that decriminalized addiction into a treatable disease, and after an initial spike has seen a steady, marked drop in drug use, including the number of new cases, for the last thirty years.
    3. How long we will continue to clothe ourselves in garments and shoes produced in foreign sweatshops that do not pay a living wage, so that migration to the land of their use becomes a necessity.
    We would have some peace from this immigration pain, from having to confront a world we do not want to live in because change is always painful.
    If we want peace, we will have to work for justice, a justice for all the creatures of God, which, then will have to be interlaced with God’s mercy.

  • Christy Foster

    Right on J Herbert! I so enjoyed our conversation last year during the PCCCA Conference at Ferncliff in Little Rock. Our conversaton on immigration, meaning of culture and the “multi-cultural” church services.
    All your keynotes were very informative, and sensible.

    Sorry to hear you are not in Memphis, but you are were you need to be…thank you for answering the Call to your new position.

  • Mary Lynn Walters

    Thanks, J. Herbert, for once again speaking out so passionately and clearly about the immigration situation. You were a blessing to our presbytery and are continuing to be one to the whole church. If only people would apply your thought process in the way they regard their “neighbors”…each and every one of them.

  • steve woods

    I’m still curious how this “love your neighbor” without accountability concept of justice is biblically correct. Without accountability for and from my neighbor and especially from my brothers in Christ, how is there ever repentance? In this concept of “justice” everyone is free to go / do whatever / whenever. That is not how nature, or Gods world has ever worked yet it is whats being promoted.
    Without accountability there is no need for repentance. WIthout repentance, no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, no eternal life.
    This life is not supposed to be a cruise. It’s a struggle. Every moment an opportunity to grow closer to our Father through growing in faith. Loving accountability to and for my neighbor and my brothers and sisters in Christ does this and honors him. WIthout the love or the accountability it clearly does not.
    This also includes accountability and respect for local laws of the land. God is clearly in charge here as well. There is a reason why Jesus said to “Give to Ceaser what is Ceasers”. We can’t ignore that either.

  • Sus

    OK, Steve, I’ll try to respond. Neither the Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, nor anyone else in this string, has remotely suggested that it is acceptable to break just laws, forgive without repentance, or love without accountability. No one. What I heard in the thoughtful, faithful, hospitable interview, was that unjust, unworkable, unequal immigration laws need our immediate reform efforts. I trust that you, as a brother in Christ, would also agree that if a law is unjust, it should be changed.

    Following the Rev Dr Nelson’s first comment, that (with the exception of Native Americans) all of us have come here under flawed immigration policy, and your insistence on accountability, Steve, how have you been held accountable for your ancestors arrival? “Let those without sin…”

    Some of your concern seems hyperbolic — for instance, history shows that requirements to learn English are unnecessary because second generation immigrants learn it and by the third generation (unfortunately) most have lost there grandparents original language. United Farmworkers have invited folks to come take the migrant workers’ jobs — they haven’t had much response, even with our current unemployment rates. That should be illuminating for us.

    You are my brother in faith. I’m sorry you feel persecuted by your church (although I don’t know what that means). I hope you can discover the imago dei, the image of G-d, in the immigrant faces around you. You say you believe that live is not supposed to be a cruise, but is a struggle — Jesus came that we may have life abundant. May it be so for all of us!


  • Vance P. Ross

    Well done, friend and classmate. Keep fighting the good fight in Jesus’ name. Accountability swings several ways: if persons must account for there living here, so should international corporations and those who build wealth by any means they account as necessary