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Why Puerto Ricans Should Matter to the US (a Christian Perspective)

Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

Aid to Puerto Rico

I recently had a discussion with a young man who felt that we shouldn't spend time and money helping the citizens of Puerto Rico. Three weeks after a devastating hurricane demolished the island territory, Puerto Ricans were still suffering from the effects of the catastrophe. 64 of the island's 69 hospitals were still not yet fully operational. Neighborhoods were still without electricity. Food and potable water were scarce. It was months before they returned to any semblance of normalcy, and in the meantime, more people would die.

Prior to the hurricane, not everyone was aware that Puerto Rico was a US territory. A recent poll by Morning Consult found that only 54% of Americans knew that Puerto Ricans are citizens. This is important because of those surveyed, 44% of those who didn't know of its citizenship status believed that the US should send them aid. Conversely, 81% of those who knew that Puerto Ricans were citizens supported sending them federal aid.

Puerto Rico is the largest US territory, has the largest GDP in the Caribbean, and if it were a state, it would be the 29th largest state by population, comprising 1.3% of the total US population. Puerto Ricans are entitled to all the benefits of US citizens, minus the right to vote in federal elections. Without a doubt, if Puerto Rico is in trouble, the US should send them aid. Being a citizen to the most powerful nation in the world has perks. Chief among them is federal funding in times of disaster.

Citizens of Heaven

There are definite benefits to claiming citizenship to the United States of America. Being a citizen of the US is nice, but anybody can tell you that the only thing nicer than one good thing is two good things. As US Christians we are not only US citizens, we are also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. The president is the highest leader in our land, but above him is the King of all Kings.

When Christ was on earth many pharisees rejected him and many followers turned away from him. The first century Jews were looking for a leader to lift them out from under the thumb of the Roman Empire. They wanted a messiah who would rise up against the current regime and place Israel in a position of authority over all the world. Indeed, Jesus was a powerful leader who came to establish a nation. Unfortunately, it wasn't the nation that the Israelites sought.

The kingdom of heaven has no geographical boundaries. It is a continual goal that we seek, and by faith we will see it one day. It's made up of people of all races, all sexes, and all nationalities. The only requirement is that they follow God. Throughout the book of Matthew Jesus spoke of his kingdom. In Matthew 21:43 Jesus teaches that the kingdom will be given to those who produce its fruit. What is this fruit? What must we do to inherit this kingdom?

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We Are All Heirs

To become a citizen of the United States, one must either be born here or voluntarily seek citizenship. Anyone choosing to become a citizen needs to be 18, fill out the paperwork, take multiple tests, live at least three months in the district to which they are applying, read, write, and speak conversational English, take an Oath of Allegiance, and understand the Constitution. The whole process, frankly, is a bit of a pain.

To become a citizen of heaven, we must seek salvation. That's it. No muss, no fuss. The book of Acts chapter 16 tells of a jailer who pleads with Paul and Silas to teach him the secret to salvation. They answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." It's that simple. No test, no application fee, no paperwork. John 3:16 tells us the entirety of the Gospel in a single sentence: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are called upon to love one another. That is the greatest commandment. Jesus often spoke in hard-to-understand parables which confused the disciples and confound modern readers. But he spoke unambiguously about love. We are to love one another. We are to show concern to the least among us. We are to provide aid to the needy and medical help to the infirm.

Being a US citizen is nice, and indeed, we should lookout for other Americans. But as Christians we are called to something greater. God is our father, so we are brothers and sisters to everyone else in the world. Whether Jew or gentile, American or Saudi Arabian, Texan or Puerto Rican. We were unequivocally called to care for one another.

Puerto Rico matters to us because it matters to God. God did not tell us to only send aid, money, comfort, prayers, or warm-wishes to people who look or speak like us. Nationality matters not a whit to the creator of all nations. In fact, Leviticus 25:23 teaches that the land belongs to God and we are but aliens residing in it. Puerto Ricans are our brothers and our sisters and right now they need our help. Will you heed the call of Jesus? Will you love your neighbor as yourself?

We are blessed with a unique opportunity to help those less fortunate. Dozens of charities are offering aid to Puerto Rico; be it supplies or money. Help is pouring in, but not fast enough or thorough enough. Please reach out to our fellow citizens. If you can't give time, give money. If you can't send money, send prayers. The Lord who sees what is done in private will surely bless you.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Anna Watson

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