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

David Vosburg

1

David Vosburg commented…

What Dr. Moore is inviting us into is the opportunity and challenge to love our neighbor, particularly those who have entered or stayed in this country, under myriad circumstances, in violation of immigration law.

The fact is, we do mistreat aliens in this country, and on a large scale. Our laws are unjust. And yes, it is a global problem too. The church is called to love the alien everywhere - here, Mexico, Kenya. Russel's point is that if we make this a border issue or a political issue first and foremost, or if we make it an 'us' 'them' conversation, we lose sight of the Gospel.

I know many people who have violated our immigration law, knowingly and unknowingly, for a host of reasons, predominantly Christian brothers and sisters, and largely without options to make legal reparation or amend the situation. The current system is broken and has been for some time. Advocating for change while loving those in the middle of the situation is not moral relativism, it is moral imperative.

I would encourage you to check out http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/iwasastranger/ - many, many church leaders are (finally) speaking to this issue, because the biblical call is so clear.

Gerin

40

Gerin commented…

Also check out www.g92.org
They have some great articles on all this.

Chris Johnson

7

Chris Johnson commented…

Romans 13:1-5 ESV
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

If someone comes into our country illegally, then they are ILLEGAL aliens and breaking our laws. This goes against the word of God.

Gerin

40

Gerin replied to Chris Johnson's comment

Yes, but that doesn't make the laws themselves just. Slavery would be justified by your argument. I'm not saying this is the same, but I am saying that Romans 13 doesn't solve this issue.

If the Bible says that we are required to be good hosts to outsiders, and we make it illegal for outsiders to come, then our laws are unjust and should be changed. That doesn't mean that people should break our current laws, but it does mean we should change them.

P.S. 96% of Economics think Illegal Immigrants have had a positive impact on our economy (WSJ).

Keith Mason

12

Keith Mason replied to Gerin's comment

What about those who resisted governments and authorities throughout history in the name of God. Consider Tyndale or Bonhoffer, Paul also calls us to remember the gospel we are called to, to not follow any other gospel.

Thoreau said "In an unjust society, the only place for a just man is prison" I'm not saying his word is gospel, but we can't be passive on issues of injustice, this is not a secular issue but a sacred one and people are more important than principalities or powers.

Chris Johnson

7

Chris Johnson replied to Keith Mason's comment

I'm not saying "keep em all out", I'm saying that if people want to come into our country, there is a LEGAL process of doing so, and they should follow that process. These arent North Koreans who are being suppressed, oppressed, brain washed, and shot if they try to leave... These are most likely people from Mexico who are free, but dont like their situation. To say that they NEED to come here is far-stretched, and theres no reason they cant come here legally, other than they have something to hide.
My uncle works in arizona doing border patrol... its not the nice, hard-working, law abiding citizens who are crossing our borders illegally in most cases, NOT ALL, but A LOT. I think if you want to be respected and allowed citizenship, you need to prove that you are willing to follow the law to do it.
ALL i'm saying is follow the law. The law is put in place for a reason. There is OBVIOUSLY reasons for not allowing ANYONE AND EVERYONE into the country and giving them citizenship.
To OBTAIN CITIZENSHIP, you must have a BACKGROUND check. This keeps dangerous and lawbreaking people OUT of our country (at least ATTEMPTING to) Thats why i dont think the law needs to be changed. Maybe modified (I'm not 100% sure exactly what all the laws are relating to the subject) but the law was put in place for a reason, not to be mean.

Dave Carroll

10

Dave Carroll commented…

When I sit reverently quiet for awhile , I sometimes sense there are no borders.

Blanca

2

Blanca commented…

Great article, thank you for elaborating your thoughts and using the Bible as a perfect example of immigration existing for thousands of years.

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