The subject of immigration has once again made its way into the forefront of public discourse and discussion. How are we, as ministers of the gospel of Jesus, to respond? For those who belong to Christ there are two main issues that should affect our heart and posture toward the issue.
We must understand God’s heart for the immigrant.
In Luke 10, a lawyer seeks to trip up Jesus with a question concerning the Law. Jesus’ reply is to quote the Old Testament's command to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. The lawyer then wants to know, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is in the form of the famous story of The Good Samaritan (If you are unfamiliar with this story you can read it in Luke 10). The Samaritan represented everything that an orthodox Jew would have despised, and yet Jesus is pointing to the care of this man in the story as a picture of how we are to love those around us. This is not a new thought for the Bible. Jesus is using principles found all throughout the Old Testament to answer the lawyer’s question.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." - Leviticus 19:33-34
As we have have journeyed through the Minor Prophets this semester in C20 with our college students and twenty-somethings, we have seen over and over that part of God’s anger with His people revolves around their mistreatment of the poor and the sojourner. God reminds the people that they were aliens in the land of Egypt, and that He loved them and protected them while they were homeless and wandering. As a follower of Christ, we now have the opportunity to show God’s heart in the gospel to love and care for those who wander among us. We should hear the words of Jesus as we interact with those in our community who wander as he said:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ - Matthew 25:34-40
As we see here in the words of Jesus, those in our community who are far from home and wandering will see Jesus Himself in the way we love and care for them. Our care and love for them will also be the measuring stick of whether or not we love Jesus.
2. God has established governments to enact and enforce laws.
The other side of the immigration coin revolves around the government’s response to the issue. Romans 13 clearly states that the governing authorities are established by God and exist because He puts them in place. Laws exist to protect and serve those people who live underneath them. If we are to exist as a society, the laws that are in place to protect and allow us to live in peace must be obeyed and enforced. No nation can exist without defined borders or they cease to be a nation (As a side note, if this point brought out more amens than the first, a heart check may be in order.) Those who violate the laws of a country rightfully place themselves under the consequences that come with breaking those laws, according to the Scriptures.
So what is our response to these things as a church? As Americans, we live in an interesting situation where we have a say in constructing our laws and electing our leaders and thus have the ability to speak with our votes and our voice into the issue of immigration. A few questions to ask:
Does my heart beat with compassion for the immigrant?
Do I see the opportunity to show the love of Christ and the gospel for those who are living around me, even if they are here illegally?
How do I best use my voice to show the heart of God and the gospel to those inside and outside my circle of influence?
We have all seen the pictures of those holding signs and shouting for people to go back to where they came from. We have read the Facebook posts and seen the tweets of those showing anything but love to those who Jesus says are our neighbors. We can say with confidence that Christ would not join these ranks. We also know that God has given us our laws for a purpose, and that the enforcement of those laws speak to his care. We are called to love and to submit. Our response must be crafted in light of both of these truths.
As a church, we should always seek to elevate the cause of the sojourner. May we be known for our overwhelming love and care of everyone around us. May we be a church that clothes the orphan, the sojourner, and the poor to the glory of God and for the advancement of the gospel. May we be a church that drips with the compassion of Jesus as we seek to communicate his gospel to everyone around us. Let us also be a church that prays for our leadership and submits to the laws of the land, to the glory of Jesus.