Immigration and the Bible

Throughout the story of the Bible, there are people leaving their homelands and traveling to strange places. The narrative begins that way in Genesis 12 with Abraham taking a step in faith and leaving behind his family and home for a new land. Abraham’s grandson Jacob runs to a foreign place in fear of his brother Esau. Abraham’s 12 great-grandchildren move the entire family from the Promised Land to Egypt.

This theme doesn’t end in the first book on the Bible. It continues throughout the text. Over and over, through fear, in faith, or by force the main characters of the story travel to strange places to live. Moses leaves Egypt to live as an immigrant shepherd. David flees to Philistine as a political exile. Ruth, Rehab, Ezekiel, Ester, and Daniel were all immigrants living in strange countries. And let’s not forget that Jesus became an immigrant as a baby when his parents escape Herod by moving to Egypt. Nor must we neglect to remember that the church spread across the world through immigration — people like Paul getting up and traveling from their homes to new lands, taking the Good News with them wherever they went. We gave them the fancy title, “missionary,” but they were just immigrants carrying the love of God with them where went.

And it is not just the presence of immigrants that is continuous throughout the scripture. The Bible is not silent on how the people of God should treat immigrants:

  • Exodus 22:21 — Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
  • Leviticus 19:33–34 — 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.
  • Deuteronomy 10:18–19 — 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.
  • Psalm 146:9 — The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
  • Jeremiah 22:3 — This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
  • Matthew 25:24–36 — Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
  • Romans 12:13–16 — Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
  • 1st John 4:7–8 — Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

It seems to me that we, the church in America, have been given an amazing opportunity. We talk of being counter-cultural. We claim that as followers of Christ we live differently than the rest of the world. In front of us is a chance to prove it.

As the nation we live in struggles with internal division and tries to understand who it is becoming, we must rise and plead the case of those who may be forgotten or excluded. This is our chance to show our friends and neighbors what it means to love as Jesus loved. While others may seek to protect themselves out of fear, we must stand with immigrants because it is what God expects of us.

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