A Christian response to immigration
by Daniel Boyce
again, the topic of immigration fills the headlines and newscasts. We watch news broadcasts and talk shows, we listen to “experts” debate and argue our government’s immigration policies. Those on the left and right are at odds with each other, but most Americans are somewhere in the middle. Politians blame the other party, past or current administrations, and sadly nothing gets done about immigration reform, and the proverbial can is once again kicked down the road. While all this blame and policy debate is happening, we seem to forget that people and families are involved.
We need to be reminded that America is a nation made of immigrants, refugees, and slaves, unless you are a Native American, and today we are the descendants of these people. For the immigrant, America is the land of hope and opportunity. For the refugee, America is the land of asylum and freedom. For the slave, America is the land they were brought to unwillingly. For the Native American, America is your homeland. Today, we all make up the United States of America.
I am a proud American. I am a descendant of immigrants and I am proud of my heritage. My family were some of the first settlers to cross the Atlantic from England and Ireland. They settled here while we were still a colony of England and many of them fought for our independence. But above my citizenship and patriotism for America, I am a child of God and a citizen of heaven as I am told in Philippians 3:20 “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven…” Therefore I am an alien to this world and country that I love, as I am reminded in I Peter 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers (aliens) and pilgrims (foreign resident)…” So, you see I am also an alien.
Does the Bible have anything to say about immigration and the immigrant? In Exodus 22:21, while God is giving Moses the Law that will govern the nation of Israel He says “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger (foreigner), nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” God reminds Israel to treat the immigrant well, because you were once immigrants and slaves. This is repeated in Leviticus 19:33-34 “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” So, we see that God commanded the children of Israel to welcome and love the immigrant.
But what about the immigrant? Did God say anything to them? In Exodus 12:49 we read “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” This is also repeated in Numbers 15:15-16. The immigrant was reminded that if they wanted to live in Israel, they had to live under their laws.
Based on these passages, if we use God’s law and Israel as an example, we should welcome and love the immigrant and the immigrant should realize that they will have to obey our laws. These principles are also taught in the New Testament. Please take the time to read Romans 13:1-7 which tells us of the God ordained governing authorities, and their ministry which is to uphold the law. So, as citizens of the United States, if I obey the law, I should have nothing to fear. As an immigrant or refugee, I should have nothing to fear if I seek to enter a United States port of entry legally. But for those who would seek to do harm, or try to change the law of the land, or try to subvert the law, or try to resist the law, or try to break the law, don’t be surprised when the authority responds. Unless the law of the land is contrary to God’s Word, we have the obligation to obey it, or seek through legal peaceful means to change the law (see Acts 4:18-20). Also, please read Romans 13:8-10. There we are encouraged to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a fulfillment of the law.
We are commanded to go preach the gospel to all nations in Matthew 28:19-20, and this is still our great commission. But in America we also have a unique opportunity, for nations come to us. This is a blessing and we should respond to the immigrant (documented or undocumented) with Christ-like love and compassion, and joyfully share the glorious gospel with them.
As God’s people we need to separate our attitude and response toward the act of entering the country illegally and undocumented, from our attitude and response toward the undocumented immigrants themselves. Documented or undocumented, they are individuals that Christ loves, and for whom He died. We need to show them Christ-likeness in our attitude, actions, and words. Just think how bad it must be in their home country, and how much of a beacon America must be, if they would risk their lives on a dangerous journey and border crossing.
I am reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address on January 11, 1989. In that speech he quoted pilgrim John Winthrop, calling America “A shinning city upon a hill” (a reference to Matthew 5:14). Winthrop used this phrase to describe an America he imagined. Isn’t that a wonderful description? Shouldn’t that be what we desire our country to be? If the city shines, doesn’t that mean that its citizens get to live in that light?
In the New York Harbor, there stands our Statue of Liberty, and inscribe on that statue is a poem called “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”