Immigration: Grace Justice and Law
I am often asked my opinion on immigration since CIR works directly with immigrants. My opinion has been shaped as I have searched the Scriptures for insight into God’s answer to this issue. In public discourse hot topics that pop up are ones like: rule of law and amnesty, government benefits, poverty, jobs, the economy, taxes and words related to general xenophobia (fear of strangers). Most Christians immediately recognize the concept of the Rule of Law as being addressed in the Scriptures, and most often associate it with Romans 13 where the Bible says to obey those who have rule over you. I would suggest however that there are some additional Biblical concepts which should be part of the conversation like justice and grace.
In the Old Testament, many times Godly justice is associated directly with how we treat the stranger. The Bible in fact, legislates how to treat the vulnerable including the foreigners when it says, "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” Lev 19:33-34. Of course in the New Testament, God tells us that it could be in the form of a foreigner that we could have an unannounced encounter with a heavenly being. And, God tells us in Matthew 25 that one of the characteristics of those who belong to Him is one who shows hospitality [philo - xenia] to the strangers.
Christians, above all people, should understand how to apply the principles of grace to someone who is from a foreign land. The Bible asks us to remember our “status” as we were before experiencing God’s grace (Ephesians 2:19). Furthermore, God tells his people in Leviticus 19:34 that because of our understanding of grace, we should be all the more compassionate towards foreigners.
Without doubt the “Rule of Law” is an important Biblical concept as well. It is important for us to recognize that the oft-quoted passage of Romans 13 in support of the "Rule of Law" is rooted in Romans 12, which exalts love of the brethren and love of strangers! Romans 12 encourages us among other things: to give preference to other human beings with honor (verse 10), to extend hospitality to strangers (verse 13 “philoxenia” as opposed to “xenophobia”).
As Christians, we must be concerned that the laws of our country are laws that reflect God’s character. Our current immigration laws, far from reflecting God’s character, suppress human dignity and exacerbate xenophobia. And we, as Americans, have not followed our “rule of law” in the enforcement or application of laws in the context of immigration. Since the 1940’s we have welcomed immigrants (undocumented or not) to build our houses, roads and our country until it was no longer economically or politically expedient to do so. Since 2008, suddenly we have become moralists about enforcing the law?
Sadly, the conversations I have with Bible-believing Christians differ only very slightly from that of others. We, like the rest of the country, seem to be caught up in the pragmatic concerns of immigration, which, admittedly, are very important. But the foundational principles that propel a Bible-believing Christian forward, first and foremost, should be rooted in Biblical principles that then extend to the pragmatic realities.
Look again at immigration through a Biblical lens. There is no better time than now for preachers and leaders to expose their sphere of influence to a Biblical view of the immigrant. Now more than ever we, as Christians, should be concerned for and should be praying for the direction our country is to take in regards to immigration (Obadiah 1:15).