This is not about the laws of America. They are fallible; they may be just (they often are) or unjust (sometimes that too). Empires make mistakes, and let's not kid ourselves - America is an empire of mankind, not the kingdom of God.
This post is about the biblical language surrounding those who are 'other'; specifically, what our hearts should feel and our hands should do in response to immigrants and refugees, legal and illegal.
I have an opinion as an American citizen under a Constitution, and I assume you do too. That's fine. But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you cannot avoid what the Bible says about this issue. And if you feel a tension between the laws of the land and the laws of God, you must go with following the heart and mind of God as revealed in the Bible, not the heart and mind of people revealed in laws.
Obviously, there is a tension here. We are to honor those in authority. The Bible is clear on that point. Government is ordained by God; they are part of his plan to (ideally) keep the world from devolving into chaos and war. If we are properly and righteously obedient, it's a witness to the world around us. However, we are also to honor all people, and honor God above all else. Sometimes, these things will be in tension. These points are biblically indisputable (see my previous links).
Fellow Christians, we must have a biblical conversation about the church's response to immigrants and refugees that simultaneously attempts to honor the laws of our land while beginning and ending in God's heart and mind as revealed in the scripture we claim as authoritative. Yes, I know the Old Testament verses are about Israel, which was a theocracy in the Ancient Near East, and is obviously different than our current situations. I'm asking you to think about what is revealed about God's heart in His commands to His people that should be applied today in a way that is appropriate to our situation.
So, as you read, I'm asking you to consider three things.
- First, what is the heart of God for the strangers, sojourners and aliens (to use biblical language).
- Second, what does He expect of His people on a personal level - what should be the attitude of our heart, and what should be the actions of our hands for those with whom we come in contact?
- Third, what kind of policy and laws should we support and encourage, and what policy and laws should we seek to overturn as we seek to honor the authorities in our life while simultaneously honoring all people?
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you."
"He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."
“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled..."
"The sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler..."
"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous."
"You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God."
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever."
"Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place."
"And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Some refused to listen. They turned their backs on this message and plugged their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint, refusing to listen to the law or the messages the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, sent by His Spirit and enacted through earlier prophets. That’s why His great wrath and calamity fell upon His people."
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts."
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Then the King will say to those to His right:
King: Come here, you beloved, you people... when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me...
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
King: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
At that He will turn to those on His left hand.
King: Get away from Me, you despised people... for I was starving, and you left Me with no food. When I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifullynaked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.
Unrighteous: Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see You without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?
King: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.
"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How do you read it?' And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.'”
ROMANS 12: 9-21
Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. Despise evil; pursue what is good as if your life depends on it. Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Do not slack in your faithfulness and hard work. Let your spirit be on fire, bubbling up and boiling over, as you serve the Lord. Do not forget torejoice, for hope is always just around the corner. Hold up through the hard times that are coming, and devote yourselves to prayer. Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.
If people mistreat or malign you, bless them. Always speak blessings, not curses. If some have cause to celebrate, join in the celebration. And if others are weeping, join in that as well. Work toward unity, and live in harmony with one another. Avoid thinking you are better than others or wiser than the rest; instead, embrace common people and ordinary tasks. Do not retaliate with evil, regardless of the evil brought against you. Try to do what is good and right and honorable as agreed upon by all people. If it is within your power, make peace with all people. Again, my loved ones, do not seek revenge; instead, allow God’s wrath to make sure justice is served. Turn it over to Him. For the Scriptures say, “Revenge is Mine. I will settle all scores.” But consider this bit of wisdom: “If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink; because if you treat him kindly, it will be like heaping hot coals on top of his head.” Never let evil get the best of you; instead, overpower evil with the good."
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us all in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
1 John 3:17-18
"If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love."
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."