Recently, I was at a Christian conference where immigration reform ended up being discussed. The Scripture of focus was from the book of Leviticus. In these verses, along with numerous others, God’s people were told to care for the less fortunate -the widows, orphans, and the foreigners among them. (Leviticus 19:10; 19:15; 23:22; 25:25, 35, 39, 47-48)
It seemed clear enough, but it became contested —
Before I could wrap my mind around it, the conversation had gone from Leviticus to legal/not legal immigrants and from the Bible to the border control.
My heart sank.
Maybe it sank primarily because immigration reform was not the theme of the session. Ironically, it was on misinterpreting the Bible based on our own lens through which we see it.
And, as I listened to the frustrated tones, I couldn’t get a question out of my mind, so heavy in my thoughts I had to scribble it down in my notes. It seemed to be the sum of it all –
Does the Bible have ultimate authority in our lives?
If we as Christians claim it does, then this issue of immigration as well as our subsequent response must come under that authority. Immigration reform is complex and without one simple answer. Why? Because human lives, not numbers, are at stake. Human lives that are made in the image of God.
As decisions are made, and as we process what leaders are proposing, may we stand firmly on Scripture and may God’s heart for people be reflected in our stance. May we not simply dismiss the verses that challenge our political stance, in effort to uphold our party line over His ultimate line.
And may we be people who long to dwell under the Lordship of Jesus in our everydays, in our interactions, in our stances, in what we promote and in what we debate, by His grace.
And so, below are some areas for Christ-followers to consider in this admittedly volatile discussion:
Our home country is Heaven. We are immigrants here, and our citizenship is Heaven – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). As citizens of Heaven, may our greatest loyalty be for the kingdom of God before any earthly kingdom or country.
God loves relationships. His greatest commandments are to love Him first and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27) May we not attempt to address this issue without knowing some names, hearing some stories, seeing some eyes up close – the real people in question. May we not divorce the policy from the people, because God loves people and He won’t contradict His word.
God is sovereign. He sets up governments, and He tears them down (Daniel 2:21). He controls the government, and He can use the government to accomplish His work. The government is therefore neither enemy nor saving grace – but an entity under the mighty hand of King Jesus.
God has a lot to say about welcoming the stranger. The Hebrew word “ger” (meaning “foreigner, stranger, immigrant”) is used 92 times; clearly, these individuals matter to God.
We are undeserving. Oh, that we would lean in and really listen to this one, because it is quickly, easily forgotten: The vast majority of us did nothing to merit any ownership of our American citizenship except being born here. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing.
Let’s all be honest though: Sometimes it would be easier to “love your neighbor” if they just stayed in their own country rather than your city, wouldn’t it? I get it. It gets messy here, and it’s all jumbled up with legal issues, rights and wrongs, defensiveness and error on all sides.
But, let’s not trump our calling to love God and love people with a political persuasion. We are commissioned for a far greater purpose.
May our ears be tuned to hear echoes of Scripture in every news story, every magazine article, every comment made about those people. And, may we be known as grace-giving people who reflect the heart of our King Jesus in how we approach the politics of our earthly nation.
People of God, let’s be passionate about love and grace, about people and souls.
Let’s rally and organize and promote something eternally worthwhile.
Let’s fix our eyes on our King, the One above all others, and let’s treasure our true citizenship – Heaven.
website // Evangelical Immigration Table
small group curriculum // Welcoming the Stranger
40 days of prayer guide // I was a stranger
video // Christian Perspective on Immigration
*resources listed are not necessarily recommendations but ways to learn more about the subject.