Rethinking the Immigration Debate

Few issues have fueled the fires of debate in our society like illegal immigration. This one issue alone has set friend against friend; conservative against liberal; federal government against state governments; race against race – and unfortunately Christian against Christian.

Each side in this debate has their arguments but as Christ-followers our views need to be more informed by the teachings of scripture than the rhetoric of a political party. Yes, Romans 13 bears on the issue, but it is not the only Biblical teaching that does. For the Christian, this goes much deeper than simply keeping the law or respecting civil authority.

Among other things, our response needs to be informed by:

1. Grace. By definition grace is giving and receiving what is undeserved. Do illegal immigrants deserve to enjoy the freedoms and blessings of our country? Not according to some but that’s exactly where grace comes in. Wherever you are on this issue, you need to make sure that grace is part of your answer. God dealt with us on a far more serious issue than immigration (sin) on the basis of grace (Ephesians 2:8), He continues to relate to us by grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) and He expects us to show grace to others (Colossians 4:6). How can we who have been recipients of grace not in turn show grace?

2. Mercy. Like grace, mercy needs to be part of our answer to this difficult issue. In scripture mercy or compassion is normally associated with the weakest and most vulnerable in society, IE the neediest. The vast majority of immigrants certainly fit into this category. Even if you are a proponent (and I suspect that most readers of my blog are) of the rule of law, even this must be tempered by mercy. King David wrote in Psalm 25:7 do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to your mercy remember me. Isn’t that how we want God to deal with us? None of us would ask God to deal with us based only on His justice (rule of law). If He did we would be lost. We want God to deal with us on the basis of His mercy and that’s how we need to deal with other people – even illegal immigrants.

3. Love. The greatest commandment according to Christ is to love God and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). The parable of the Good Samaritan was told to explain who our neighbor is. In short your neighbor is the person that God puts in your path who has the deepest need – whether they are in our country legally or illegally. Our response is to meet their need in love.

4. The Gospel. As strange as it sounds this too needs to be included in our answer. Even illegal immigrants are people who need to hear the gospel. We have a great opportunity to share Christ with people who have come to our country, regardless of their legal status. We can literally go . . . and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) without ever leaving our country. Too many Christians are too focused on getting rid of the illegals when our first focus should be on sharing Christ with them.

5. Our Speech. Too often Christians use the same harsh rhetoric as everyone else when discussing this issue. We talk about those people as if they were less than human. We decry the fact that they are using our health care and welfare resources (does mercy matter here?). We can’t even say the word immigrant without a harsh tone creeping into our voice. We forget that when we speak the truth (and we need to on this and all other issues) we need to speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15). Love for God, love for others, even love for illegals.

6. People. I recognize that one of the foundations of our society is the rule of law. We are, at least by definition, a country of laws. Even our leaders are subject to the law. That’s why so many people want to come here, even if they have to come illegally, because this is a land of opportunity and safety. And we are a land of opportunity and safety because we have laws. But laws can never be more important than people. Christ died for people not for laws. And somehow as we debate this issue in our country we need to remember that we are dealing with people who carry in themselves the image of God. People who were created by God. People who are loved by God.

The immigration debate needs to be moved out of the emotional realm and, for the Christian, into the Biblical/theological realm. It’s time that we stopped listening to the political pundits and starting listening to God. When you do you may be amazed at how it will inform your thinking.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve


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