Justice or Mercy: The Immigration Issue

This post is directed mainly to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. May the grace of God speak through my words.

The immigration issue has been all over the news lately. Especially our country’s policy of separating children from their parents once apprehended at the border or in ICE raids across the country. Before I go further I should disclose what my views on immigration are. I believe we are a nation of laws. They are there for a reason. A nation is not a nation without borders. That is why our laws should be enforced and our borders protected. I also support a wall of some kind. With that said, if you go on my social media you would not find these views. You will find my support for immigrant families and my advocacy for their being kept together.

So why the difference?

My Allegiance

I am thankful that I live in the United States of America. The freedoms we enjoy are the envy of the world. I consider myself a patriot and revere the Constitution as one of the greatest documents in human history. But first and foremost I am a Christian. I am a member of the kingdom of God. My first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and his teachings. One of the freedoms in America is the freedom of religion. I am able to live out my faith in relative ease. Sometimes that is not possible. As a Christian I am left with the decision to choose between the law of the land or the law of The Kingdom. The Kingdom wins every time.

Sometimes it’s easy to view America’s laws as part of the Kingdom. It’s also easy to find ways to make our political views something that Jesus would do. Recently some of my fellow Christians in the current presidential administration cited Romans 13 as a justification for enforcing our immigration laws. Romans 13 does say that we should obey the laws of the land, but their use of the passage is manipulative. In context as believers in Christ we are to obey the laws that govern us, that is until those laws contradict God’s laws. Then we are to resist. It’s the reason we smuggle bibles into China where bibles are outlawed. It’s the reason we send missionaries to countries where the gospel is punishable by prison or death. No one says, “China says no bibles. Romans 13!!!”

Sojourners or Criminals?

So are the immigrants being detained at the border criminals? Are the immigrants in other states arrested by ICE criminals? America’s laws say yes. When you cross the border illegally you are breaking our laws and are subject to arrest, detainment and deportation. Those that cross our border know that this is the law yet they choose to break it. I get that. I’m sure they get that too. Whether we should change our laws regarding punishment and detainment procedures is the issue of our time. It’s a debate we should have. But that is not the focus of my post. As a Christian that shouldn’t be our focus when it comes to immigrants.

As Christians our focus should not be on the criminality of the immigrant but on what God says our treatment of them should be. In Deuteronomy 10:14-22 it says,

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Sometimes the Old Testament can be tricky as there are passages that speak directly to the nation of Israel and passages that speak to God’s universal nature. This is one such passage. The author of Deuteronomy is speaking directly to the nation of Israel. It’s poor theology to apply scripture universally that is designated for a specific audience. So normally I would not cite this passage but inserted in the passage are references to God’s nature. God’s character does not change regardless of who He’s speaking to. That is what makes these verses relevant to the immigrant discussion. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner. The nation of Israel by God’s decree had specific laws and requirements to be an Israelite. Foreigners in Israel were not given green cards and in most cases lived lifestyles in violation to Levitical laws. Yet God doesn’t haggle over whether they are legal or not.

If we are to defend the same causes God defends, how do we as the church live that out? How do we defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow? How do we love the foreigner living among us?

Moving Within the Laws

Here is where it all comes together. Our immigration laws are what they are. They aren’t going to change any time soon. As a Christian it is irrelevant whether you support these laws or not. We are to reflect God’s nature and love the orphan, the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner. America’s laws say they are criminals. God’s character says they are to be loved.

Let’s not forget the issue of family. There are numerous passages of scripture that speak to the family and how fathers, mothers and children are to treat each other. The family is so important that we even have a major ministry in the US called Focus on the Family! It makes no sense as a Christian to lament the dismantling of the American family yet support policies that dismantle immigrant families.

The church was never intended to be constricted by man’s laws. The church was intended to work within man’s laws. The Christians in the early church faced persecution and government obstacles, yet the church flourished regardless. Early Christians rescued children from exposure and temple prostitution, took care of lepers and victims of plague. In Acts 6 we see an example of ministry to widows. So it’s quite practical for the church to minister to illegal immigrant families and other families regardless of their legal status.

Who Is My Neighbor?

Here are two passages of scripture to supplement not only this issue, but many others when it comes to our neighbors.

Luke 10:25-37 is the parable of the good Samaritan. I’ve heard this passage preached many times about being nice to your neighbor and paying it forward. What’s lost is the racial and ethnic element of the parable. The Samaritan was considered an outcast. Jesus in this parable was letting the Jews know that God is more concerned with kindness given to strangers than to the racial/ethnic makeup of the person giving it.

Matthew 25:31-46 is a passage where Jesus tells who the righteous are. Those who give water to the thirsty and clothe the naked are declared righteous. In verse 36 Jesus says, “I was in prison and you visited me.” Jesus equates taking care of the thirsty, naked and imprisoned is the same as taking care of Him.

Conclusion

For far too long in this country the church has been identified by what we are for or against politically. Those who are hostile to the church pick up on this and use it to paint us in a negative light. Sometimes rightly so. We let our politics dictate our ministry instead of ministering despite our politics. My prayer is this will change. As Americans we can always have a vigorous debate over the issues of our day. But as followers of Jesus Christ we must be more attentive to the nature of God and what he loves. The fatherless, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner.

I will continue to voice my support for illegal immigrant families and my dissent against separating them. God’s law supports the family and any law that means to separate the family is immoral in His eyes. Let’s minister to these families at the border and beyond while engaging in a debate to protect our borders and country from those who would do our country, our families, and the people God told us to love harm.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you and keep you. 🙂