In the midst of all the heated rhetoric and political posturing occurring around the issue of immigration, I’m concerned that many Christians are ignoring a foundational question: What does God think? What is God’s heart regarding the issue of immigration?
We too easily adopt the perspective of whatever political party we are associated with, rather than thinking Biblically about the topic. We must remember that we are Christ followers first. Everything else is to align with that foundational reality. We are people of the kingdom, following a King. Our lives and hearts are to align with His heart.
So what is God’s heart regarding the issue of immigration? You may be surprised to hear that the Bible has a lot to say about this issue. One of recurring themes in the Bible is God’s heart for the immigrant. In the ancient near east, various nations had law codes that guided their behavior—Assyria, Babylon, Persia. But none of them had any law, any moral guideline concerning how to treat a foreigner. Which fostered animosity and prejudice and hatred toward outsiders.
But when God gave Israel His law, after rescuing them from bondage in Egypt, He specifically included in it several statements about how foreigners should be treated. One of the most powerful and clear articulations of this is found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19. God is declaring His greatness. Check this out:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows know partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
This is such an incredible passage at so many levels. One, it shows so clearly God’s love for the foreigner, the immigrant. He specifically singles them out here and says, I love the alien. I love the immigrant who lives among you. Which means that every person has value. Every person matters to God.
But there is more here than that. One of the reasons God sets His affection and concern upon them is because of how vulnerable they are, how easily they can be mistreated and taken advantage of. I know how I feel when visiting a foreign country and don’t know the language or the money situation. I am totally vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Imagine living there.
Many immigrants to the United States are taken advantage of in awful ways, sold things they don’t need, promised things they don’t get, lied to, paid unfair wages. And they have no recourse. They can’t report the lawyer who stole their money, since to do so would expose them to the risk of being deported.
Now before anyone reacts by saying, “They deserve to be deported. They’re here illegally,” read Deuteronomy 10 again very carefully. In this passage, God is saying, “I care about them. I love them. That’s why I want you to love them. To make sure they are not taken advantage of, and that they have what they need.”
Here’s my question as we think about this issue of immigration: Do you love the immigrant? That’s the question that, for us as Christians, should be driving our response to this issue. Do we love them? Do we have compassion for their situation? Do we care about what happens to them?
I’m not talking about political policy. I’m not talking about legislation or health care or legal issues or any of that. I’m asking what I believe is the most important question of all. I don’t think we can even begin to hear God speak to us about this issue until we answer this at a heart level: Do we love the immigrant? What is our attitude towards the immigrants who live in our community? Fear, hatred, anger, disdain….or love?
If reading this is making your heart rate increase, I would encourage you to ask yourself why that is. Why does this evoke such a strong reaction, and is love what is driving that reaction?
Now I realize the issue of immigration is very complex and emotionally charged. I get that. In future posts, I’d like to look at some of those issues and concerns. But again, before we go there, I want you answer this question honestly: Do you love the immigrant?