Have Christians Lost the Moral High Ground on Immigration?

The Israelites were scattered because they refused to do as God commanded: they oppressed the sojourners, among other things.

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Photo by Tim Butterfield

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger[1] and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [2]

The parable of the sheep and goats and the explanation of it given by Jesus is relevant to the issue of immigration. This is not in the Old Testament, but the New Testament. This isn’t God talking to the nation of Israel (as if what God said to the nation of Israel has no bearing on us), but God talking to all of us through Jesus.

The bottom line is this: we will be judged by how we treat people.

A case can be made that God’s instructions to the Israelites on the treatment of strangers (aliens, foreigners, immigrants) doesn’t apply to us today,[3] like ceremonial and dietary laws don’t apply to us today as followers of Christ. At least, that is the position taken by James K. Hoffmeier in the article, The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate, December 2011.[4]

Hoffmeier argues that conservative Christians should not take a position in favor of immigration. He says that only secularists and liberals hold to that position, and they misquote the Bible to support that position.

Before diving in to the issue, we should note that the discussion isn’t about whether immigration should be allowed, or not. We already allow immigration and always have. Few people are arguing that we should open the borders wide with no controls at all, and few people are arguing that we should shut the borders tight and not allow any immigration at all.

The issue is the extent of the immigration we should allow and the terms and conditions that we should attach to it. But, the debate sounds as if people are lining up completely in favor of open borders or completely in favor of closing them off. Neither view is accurate of most people, and assuming that it is counterproductive.

Another issue we need to contend with is the notion that the secularists and liberals have staked out the ground in favor of immigration. This notion is also false. Who is against immigration?! Who would refuse any immigration at all? Everyone but Native Americans are descendants of immigrants in this country.

But, what if those “secularists and liberals” are “right” in their policies that favor more compassionate immigration? Do we oppose things just because secularists or liberals ascribe to them? These are questions I ask myself as I consider the issues. Are we just reacting? I believe we should be guided, not by our opposition to positions taken by unbelievers, but by our own reading of the Scriptures and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I am neither a secularist nor a liberal. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe that we are responsible to God whose Word is preserved in the Bible. My reading of the Bible leads me to take the position that we have a holy responsibility to welcome strangers, immigrants, into our land because that is the heart of God.

Continue reading “Have Christians Lost the Moral High Ground on Immigration?”