There is a bucket full of heat on the topic of illegal immigration in this country right now, but I’m not certain there is a thimble full of light being shed on the topic. Does the Bible tell us anything on this subject that we should consider? Is it simply a political issue that we should trust Congress to take care of or even the next president to handle? First, let me be clear that I don’t care whether you support building a wall along the border or simply opening the borders for anyone to come through at will it is still important to raise the question of what God says on it. What I do want to see is that God has somethings to say on the topic that ought to be brought into the consideration. There is no question that a country has a right to borders, their own language and their own laws that one entering is obligated to follow.
But it is absolutely true that we are a nation filled with people who have immigrated from other countries and we have multitudes of people who were brought here by parents or other family, some illegally, but they have been here all their lives. Sometimes families were brought here during times of crises in their own countries and were brought to this country as an act of benevolence. Too often after the crisis is past, the ones who were brought here have no desire to return to their homeland and if years have passed, their children see themselves as part of this country rather than the nation from which they came. Many came to work for someone but the job has now passed and they are still here but not accepted into the society. So, where is a Christian supposed to land on all these topics. And is there a difference between the one who came in legally but stayed after their visa had run out and the one who came into the country in the darkness and constantly hides in the shadows to keep from be deported back to their home country?
There is no question that people on all sides of the issue believe they are conducting themselves as Christians who imitate Jesus in their actions. One thing stands out to anyone who has spent any time reading the Old Testament and that is that God called on his people to treat the aliens in the land right. He always placed the welfare of the alien right alongside his concern for the orphan and the widow. Think about some things that Jesus said with regard to how we treat others of all sorts. He said the second greatest command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” James called this the royal law and applied it to how Christians treat the poor who come into their assembly. Jesus illustrated the point by telling the story of how a man fell among thieves who robbed him, beat him and left him for dead. While the priest and Levite came by, they passed by on the other side of the road. It was a Samaritan who came by and saw the man, had compassion on him and cared for his wounds. He took him to an inn and cared for him there, even paying the inn-keeper to take care of him when he had to leave. Jesus said he was the one who was neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves. So, if the illegal immigrant is a neighbor and I’m to love my neighbor as myself, tell me how I’m to treat him.
Add to that Jesus statement that we are to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who despitefully use you and persecute you so that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.” He identified with the least of these in Matthew 25 and said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick or those in prison, give drink to the thirsty, and take in the stranger that we ministered to him. “Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you did it unto me.”
At the same time, Paul challenged Christians to obey the rulers of the land and said they didn’t bear the sword in vain. Unless the laws of the land somehow violate the law of God my place as a child of the Lord is to obey that law. So, while I’m to be one that loves and cares for the stranger and treats them with respect, that doesn’t mean that I’m to sanction the violating of the law or even encourage people in their disobedience. Care must be taken as a child of God to be the caring one for anyone who comes our way, I must not become one who is disobedient to the law by encouraging more disobedience to the law. Remember too, the nation isn’t a church. It is a government with laws that should be obeyed and if disobeyed that government has the right to punish those who disobeyed. As a Christian I’m obligated to treat everyone with with love, kindness and respect. But that doesn’t mean that I have the right to encourage people to disobey the laws of the land when they are just laws.
One thing that stands out for the Christian is that every action toward the immigrant whether legal or illegal should be with view to trying to win that person to Jesus Christ. Every person that comes into the country ought to be seen as a prospect for Christ and an opportunity to be evangelistic and strive to teach the person about Christ. As a nation I wish we could find the way to be benevolent and accepting of that one who has been in this country for years, obeying the laws, and striving to do the right thing in life, while not destroying the very borders that make us a nation. I realize that it is extremely difficult because if you offer amnesty to the ones who have been in the country for a long time illegally, you do encourage those who want to come here anyway to follow the same plan with hopes to being recognized as citizens in the future. But I know for certain that nothing gives the Christian the right to do anything that isn’t done in love and respect for the other person and in an effort to be salt and light to lead them to God.
Will we ever as a nation reach any kind of compromise that will be acceptable to all sides, benevolent toward the immigrant and uphold the laws and borders of the nation? I don’t know. It really seems to me that we move further from any such noble goal all the time. But whatever the country does, I must make certain that as a Christian I do what God calls me to do personally in how I treat the stranger in the land.