Certainly there needs to be discussion about immigration, and it would include topics like amnesty, national security, the economy, etc. However, if you’re going to bring religion into the discussion, it’s a good idea to know what the Bible says about the subject. So, this is going to be a Bible-heavy post wherein I present a lot of verses for consideration. I’m not going to talk about how immigration keeps our population from aging or helps our economy. You can find those arguments elsewhere. This post is solely about a religious perspective. Got your Bible handy? Here we go!
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”-Exodus 22:21
“Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”-Exodus 23:9
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” –Leviticus 19:33-34
“If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”-Leviticus 25:35 [Note this is a good one to consider when tempted to complain about welfare too.]
“He [God] 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.” –Deuteronomy 10:18-19
“Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow…” –Deuteronomy 27:19
“…do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow…” –Jeremiah 5:6
“You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” –Ezekiel 47:22
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’” –Zechariah 7:9-10
“’So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against…those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” –Malachi 3:5
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” –Matthew 25:35
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these.” –Mark 12:30-31
“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” –Luke 13:29
“But our citizenship is in heaven.” –Philippians 3:20a
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:2
Old Testament and New, God has a lot to say about how we treat foreigners (and people in general). One recurring theme is that of inclusion. Foreigners are to be included and share in the inheritance. People from all geographic locations, cultures, native tongues, etc. will feast with God. The second recurring theme is one of mercy and compassion toward the disenfranchised. There’s a reason many of the passages that talk about foreigners also talk about orphans and widows. These were (and still are, in many places of the world) the most vulnerable among us. In patriarchal societies losing a father or husband, the sole breadwinner and the source of security, puts one in danger. And anyone who’s traveled knows how foreigners are taken advantage of. Think about how indignant you get when, as an American on vacation, you know that you’re being charged a higher price than locals. Now imagine that instead of it being a matter of paying a couple extra dollars for your tchotchkes that it’s a matter of trying to live in a foreign land because that’s where you think your family has the best chance of survival, yet you know you’re going to be cheated, derided, and excluded.
These are just the verses that talk explicitly about foreigners. There are stories in the Bible that implicitly give us some insight into how God views the subject. The stories of Rahab and Ruth, for example, both show us foreigners being welcomed into the fold of Israel. And let’s not forget that Jesus spent some time as an immigrant/refugee in Egypt while his life was threatened by Herod.
What upsets me the most about this latest uproar is that the issue is about showing children amnesty for a temporary period of time (about two weeks). People are protesting the feeding and shelter of about a hundred boys for less than a month. That is very different from allowing anyone and everyone to stay indefinitely. You can say that you think we shouldn’t spend money on it or that you think it is a security threat. And from those perspectives, you may, arguably, have a point. But don’t put on a show of including “prayer” in your protest to imply that you’re religiously guided in it. Don’t pretend that Jesus is smiling down on you from heaven while you brandish your rifles and signs that accuse children of being gang members and terrorists simply because they’re coming from south of us and not from north of us. [We all know that if this same situation were happening with Canadian parents sending their kids here, no one would be raising this stink. Except in the case of Justin Beiber. Please take him back.] Jesus, who said, “Suffer the little children to come to me;” Jesus, who warned that anyone who caused them to stumble in their faith would be better off having a millstone hung on his neck and thrown into the sea; Jesus, who himself needed amnesty as a child in Egypt, would he be out there picketing with you? Children (and adults) are watching. What is the message you’re sending, and is it consistent with the gospel? When they watch, do they see a Christian loving their neighbor and showing that their citizenship is in heaven? Or do they see a Christian telling a child to “go the eff back to your own country and starve.”?
Again, let me be clear. I’m not saying we should just abandon any sort of immigration laws or that there’s only one view on immigration that Christians can adopt. What I am saying is that if we choose to bring religion into any political discussion, it should be because our religion is informing our politics and not the other way around. Study the applicable passages and principles found on the subject in the Bible while being open to the Holy Spirit’s working. Then, when discussing the issue with others, do so in a civilized way without resorting to name calling or bringing weapons as a thinly veiled threat.