by Nicole Kelp, Resonate Pullman staff
Immigration seems to be the issue on everyone’s minds and newsfeeds these days. Whether it’s debates about politics and laws or tragic stories of people fleeing violence and hardship, this seems to be an issue we can’t ignore.
However, as evidenced by the endless debates, it also seems to be an issue our society can’t figure out. While we individually may not be able to dictate everyone’s opinions, we do have control over our own. As Christians in America, we have two choices: to address this issue primarily as Christians, or primarily as Americans. Since being a follower of Christ should always be our primary identity and allegiance, this blog will address what God says about immigrants and how that should inform our opinions and actions.
1. The Bible tells us to always accept and care for immigrants, refugees, the poor, and those in distress.
Throughout the Bible, God reveals himself as a God who loves people all over the world, regardless of nationality. In particular, He reveals himself as the God who fights for justice for the oppressed. And in case we missed the point, God gives specific instructions about how to treat immigrants and refugees.
Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow."
Ezekiel 47:22 “You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.”
Jesus himself further strengthens these commands, saying in the Sermon on the Mount that it is not good to accept only people like us (Matthew 5:47) and that we should give to those in need. He further says in Matthew 25 that when we care for strangers we are caring for Him, and when we refuse to care for strangers, we are refusing to care for Him. The New Testament also repeatedly tells us that nationality and race don’t matter - in Christ, we are all one.
2. The Bible tells us to choose God’s laws over man’s laws.
A common argument for refusing to accept and care for undocumented immigrants and refugees is often the “law of the land” and the fact that the Bible does indeed tell us to obey the laws of our governing authorities (Romans 13:1). However, God gives this command to obey the governing authorities with a caveat. When the political leaders told Peter and the other apostles to stop talking about Jesus, they said “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). If the laws of the country contradict the laws of God, we must always choose to submit to God’s laws. Immigration laws are often steeped in racism and exclusionism, while God’s laws about how we should perceive and treat immigrants and people of other nationalities are clear that we should show acceptance and love.
3. The Bible tells us to be Jesus’ hands and feet.
So what does this mean for us Christians in America today? Can we automatically change our country’s laws to reflect God’s heart of caring for immigrants and refugees? Obviously not, as America isn’t a theocracy. But we also shouldn’t sit idly by while people are suffering. Jesus said that people would know we are his disciples by our love (John 13:35). Thus, we should show God’s love to immigrants and refugees. This could include praying for them, giving to charities that provide practical help to immigrants and refugees, or befriending immigrants and refugees in our hometowns. Jesus wanted us to serve others like He served us - which was by loving us when we were strangers and foreigners to Him. May we extend the same love to others!
4. The Bible tells us that this world is not our home.
Too often, we base our actions on things of this world. However, it would behoove us to remember that all Christians are foreigners in America. Our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In light of that, we need to be thinking of the eternal things of heaven rather than the temporal things of countries and border lines. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and how easy it is to do that when the nations come to our neighborhood! Let us welcome our neighbors from around the world, sharing the love of the gospel with them. What joy it would be for people of all nationalities to become disciples of Jesus and fellow missionaries of the kingdom, sharing God’s love with friends in America, friends in their home countries, and everyone in between!