The news is reporting that Mr. Obama is moving to shield millions of illegal immigrants. It seems the Left and the Right are back at it – fighting for their particular view of what is right.
Before I even began to write this post I knew that immigration reform is a very charged topic. I also no that there is no monolithic Christian perspective on the issue. In fact, immigration is largely a national issue and not so much a spiritual one. That is to say, the bible never addresses how to handle immigration reform. The Bible DOES talk about foreigners and aliens and how to treat them. The Bible also addresses how to help those in need. Those are the issues we’ll look at today. Do you remember that movie Short Circuit from a while back? It’s about the robot that comes alive and has personality. The movie is filled with issues of identity: identity we give ourselves and identity given to us by others. On of my favorite scenes has two of the main characters talking and one asks the other about his identity – his heritage.
The white guy asks his (seemingly obvious) co-worker from India: “Where are you from?” To which his colleague responds: “Pittsburgh, originally.” 🙂
The passenger had a whole heap of presupposed ideas about his friend’s identity. This is part of our problem when it comes to immigration. We assume an “us vs. them” attitude. In the Old Testament we find that God gladly welcomes foreigners and aliens into the community of faith. Not only were they welcome but God saw to it that there were treated fairly and without discrimination.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 19:33-34 There is no room for an “other-than” mentality – they become us. Many Americans seem to hold to an immigration policy that embraces this wrong thinking. Heck, we still struggle with oppression and discrimination among natural-born citizens. The foreigner doesn’t stand a chance.
But God’s people are supposed to act fairly and inclusively no matter what. The New Testament letter of James tells us that our words need to match our actions. If we believe in a God that cares about people then so should we. It does no good to wish someone well if we fail to back up those words with our actions. I know that James wasn’t addressing international politics but I do believe that his words ought to make us think twice about how we behave towards foreigners looking to move to America.
While it may seem that I am in favor of flinging wide our national borders to any and all comers, I am not. I think that legal immigration should be embraced. I think that illegal immigration should be quashed. During the Exodus, when God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, God made a provision to care for foreigners. The only stipulation was that Israel’s law would apply to the foreigners as well. In this case it meant circumcision. That’s a steep price to pay for citizenship! If foreigners want to legally immigrate and make our laws their laws I believe we should welcome them whole-heartedly.
Where I personally draw the line is when people look to circumvent laws for their own betterment. When all is said and done I know there is no easy answer or fix to immigration reform. I know that Christians will approach the issue from several perspectives and reach differing conclusions.
Regardless of how America addresses the issue as a nation, I believe Christians need to wrestle with these Bible verses and ask if we’re treating people the way God would want us to treat them. And remember – go back far enough and we’re all from somewhere else (even the “Native Americans”).
How about you? Have you given any thought to how God wants you to treat foreigners and aliens?Follow @chrislinzey
– You’re Breaking the Law But You Want the Church to Protect You?
3 Replies to “Obama, Christianity and Immigration Reform”
While I agree with your post on Immigration, I want to add that the issue becomes so much murkier once some of “those illegal immigrants” become actual faces, names and friends. As I enter my 3rd year leading a ministry to Hispanic children (whose parents I believe are probably here illegally), I find myself wondering what in their home countries was so terrible that it was worth risking the trip to a strange land with young children in tow. I can testify that their standard of living here is quite low, that they are marginalized, stereotyped, and often even despised. I think many of the children I have come to know and love were born here and have known no other country, no other home. I have met young adults who were brought to America as very young children and were then eventually left here alone, to largely fend for themselves, because their parents were deported. What can be so bad in the motherland that one thinks leaving behind your child is the best option? I am far from understanding these issues. I have always been a rule follower, and I deeply respect the importance of obeying the law; but I am coming to see that letting grace trump justice and compassion trump indifference can be a beautiful testimony to the love of God poured out on all of us (the “legal” and the “illegal.”)
As someone who grew up in a much more diverse environment around lots of immigrants – I have no problem with immigration reform. I can empathize with those who have illegally entered the country. I don’t know that if the tables were turned I wouldn’t do the same thing.
That being said – I think immigrants should come to assimilate and that any immigration reform should include 1. A way to identify immigrants so they don’t slip under the laws citizens have to obey and 2. Some kind of restrictions to ensure that said immigrants aren’t allowed to be a drag on the welfare system aren’t allowed to do things like drive around without insurance and a driver’s license. In other words,I don’t have a big problem with amnesty so long as it comes with real reform. I have a lot of doubts about the current administration’s ability and desire to make that happen.
Thanks for sharing. I like your take on the issue – even if you’re more liberal than I am 😉