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The Gospel of Immigration

Why our borders aren't defined only by politics.

I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the Gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the
political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration
policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead
by Gospel and mission.

This is a Gospel issue. First of all, our Lord Jesus Himself was a so-called “illegal immigrant.” Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with Him in Egypt (Matt. 2:113-23). Jesus, who lived out His life for us, spent His childhood years in a foreign land away from His relatives among people speaking a different language with strange customs.

This is much more than a “political” issue, abstracted from our salvation.

In so doing, our Lord Jesus was reliving the life of Israel, our ancestors in the faith, who were also immigrants and sojourners in Egypt (Exod. 1:1-14; 1 Chron. 16:19; Acts 7:6). It is this reality, the Bible tells us, that is to ground our response to those who sojourn among us (Exod. 22:21; Ps. 94:6; Jer.7:6; Ezek. 22:29; Zech. 7:10). God, the Bible says, “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18-19).

This is much more than a “political” issue, abstracted from our salvation. Jesus tells us our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matt. 25:40). God will judge those who exploit workers and mistreat the poor. No matter how invisible they seem to us now, God hears (Isa. 3:15; Amos 4:1; Jas.5:4).

This is also a question of our mission. There are upwards of 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country right now, and many more in the Latino community who came here legally. If our response to them is to absorb the nativism and bigotry of some elements of society around us, we are showing them a vision of what the Bible calls “the flesh” rather than the Spirit. If our churches ignore the nations around us who are living in our own communities, we do not reflect the Kingdom of God, which is made up of those from every tribe, tongue, nation and language (Rev. 7:9).

It is easy to lash out at undocumented immigrants as “law-breakers,” and to cite Romans 13 as reason to simply call for deportation and retribution. But this issue is far more complicated than that. Yes, undocumented immigrants are violating the law, but, first of all, most of them are doing so in order to provide a future for their families in flight from awful situations back home. Many of them are children (as our Lord Jesus was at the time of His immigration).

As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land puts it, there are two metaphorical signs on our border: “Keep out” and “Help wanted.”

And, even given our nation’s Romans 13 responsibility to maintain secure borders, the message our nation sends to those across our borders isn’t clear and univocal. As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land puts it, there are two metaphorical signs on our border: “Keep out” and “Help wanted.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t real political challenges here. I agree that the border should be secured. I support holding businesses accountable for hiring, especially since some of them use the threat of deportation as a way of exploiting these vulnerable workers. I support a realistic means of providing a way to legal status for the millions of immigrants already here. But there are many who disagree with me, and for valid reasons.

The larger issue is in how we talk about this issue, recognizing that this is not about “culture wars” but about persons made in the image of God. Our churches must be the presence of Christ to all persons, regardless of country of origin or legal status. We need to stand against bigotry and harassment and exploitation, even when it’s politically profitable for those who stand with us on other issues.

And, most importantly, we must love our brothers and sisters in the immigrant communities. We must be the presence of Christ to and among them, even as we receive ministry from them. Our commitment to a multinational Kingdom of God’s reconciliation in Christ must be evident in the verbal witness of our Gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations.

Immigration isn’t just an issue. It’s an opportunity to see that, as important as the United States of America is, there will be a day when the United States of America will no longer exist. And on that day, the sons and daughters of God will stand before the throne of a former undocumented immigrant. Some of them are migrant workers and hotel maids now. They will be kings and queens then. They are our brothers and sisters forever.

We might be natural-born Americans, but we’re all immigrants to the Kingdom of God (Eph. 2:12-14). Whatever our disagreements on immigration as policy, we must not disagree on immigrants as persons. Our message to them, in every language and to every person, must be, “Whosoever will may come.”

This article is reprinted by permission from his blog.

62 Comments

Bryan Lee Davidson

7

Bryan Lee Davidson commented…

The word refugee does come to mind.

angela

2

angela commented…

Sadly, this article isn't about loving all people, but more about the need to disregard the law of man, and ease it, so that those who have disobeyed it, have no consequence, but are in fact, rewarded. It IS a political scheme of liberal Democrats to ensure their power, and to see it otherwise, is purely naive and ignorant.

As Christians, yes, we are to love all people, even those who are in our country illegally, but we are not to enable and encourage those people to break the law of man and then reward them from doing so. That is not justice. That is not righteousness. That is not like our one true living God, at all.

To say those who want everyone to obey the laws that are on the book as 'unloving, or unChristlike' is really judgmental and I'm afraid this author has bought into a lie and is attempting to persuade others to be deceived as well.

Wake up, America. The law of the land needs to be respected, and there is right and wrong, there is absolute truth, and there is a very insidious play for power and evil to triumph over good.

angela

2

angela commented…

In Proverbs 30:8-9, the writer of Proverbs states, "Give me neither poverty nor wealthy; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You... or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God."

So, if I'm poor and starving, I might end up stealing, giving God a bad name, since I represent Him to others. Stealing is against the law (both man's and God's law) so then I might end up in prison. If I'm in prison, as a Christ follower, you are commanded to come visit me.

So, instead of visiting me in prison, why don't you, as a Christian, just change the law for me? Make it justifiable, for certain people, to be allowed to steal, if we are below the poverty level of $10,000/year income. Then, I'm excused... and therefore, now legal and law abiding, under your new laws.

If you are REALLY following the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you'd change that law for me and make it all right to steal, because I was hungry and trying to feed my family.

Illegal immigration? Same thing, dear ones.

Jim Meatloaf

4

Jim Meatloaf commented…

I would highly recommend the new "Les Misérables." Esp. for those who are taking the "it's the law" defense.

Nobody comes if nobody hires illegals. Americans already have voted on this issue with their money. Most places I've lived, it's don't ask don't tell, and it works.

I think there's a big difference between supporting illegal immigration and what we do with illegal immigrants already living here. Deportation is problematic and inhumane in many cases, because generally, it's lower class people, not middle class ones, who immigrate illegally. (Deportation of felons created the largest Latin Street gangs like MS13, and a fairly large percentage of people I met at a soup kitchen in Guatemala were deportees)

There are some courageous, mostly Catholic organizations taking sanctuary seriously and proactively in the Southwestern US, helping illegal immigrants on their journeys. It's worth looking into.

Assimilation takes 2 to 3 generations. But in America it is often final and irreversible even in just two--Even among Spanish-speakers, which I find embarrassing for us and for them. As the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, I sincerely hope Stanford or someone opens the world's most prestigious Spanish-language institute of higher learning in the near future. And that we'd start teaching our kids to be bi- and tri-lingual from primary school.

Brad Wiese

1

Brad Wiese commented…

Just because something is man's law does not make it God's law. It is legal to have an abortion in the United States, however, I think many of us would agree that this law is contradictory to God's law. We may be natural-born citizens now, but many of our ancestors were not. How quickly we forget and point the finger at those that we think are threatening to steal what we consider to be ours.

Eisegesis takes place when we take portions of Scripture out of context to support our own presuppositions about what God believes. Exegesis is when we recognize that God already knows what He believes and we look at the text as a whole to determine how God feels about a situation. This article is Exegetically correct and I applaud the writer for standing up for the marginalized, oppressed, and impoverished traveler.

Also, for those who continue to support an opposing viewpoint, I would encourage you to do some research regarding how the United States contributes to the poverty of underdeveloped nations because of the lack of fair trade when it comes to the many products we consume. Our demand for cheap products, and more than our fair share of them, are often directly responsible for the difficulties of the poor in other countries. Mexico, for example, is a victim of our overabundance of cheap subsidized US corn. Like it or not, our chickens are coming home to roost and we must take responsibility for the poverty that our greed continues to foster. Ignorance is not bliss my fellow Christians.

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