Loving the Sojourner Because God Loves the Sojourner

The terms, aliens, strangers and sojourners, were found throughout Scripture, and the Bible has a lot to say about them.

During the second half of the Obama administration and leading up to and through much of the Trump administration, immigrants were much in the news. The country was divided over how immigrants should be handled: whether we should build a wall and be more restrictive at the borders; how strictly we should enforce the laws; whether the laws should be changed; whether immigrants from certain countries should be restricted or prohibited; and so on.

Much of the public “discussion” was inflamed with political rhetoric. The tone was angry on both “sides”. It seemed that most people were talking past each other. People took extreme positions. The issues were couched in all or nothing language, as if the choices were to open the borders wide or shut them down completely.

As I talked with people privately on both “sides”, though, the tenor and tone was different. I didn’t speak with anyone who advocated open borders with no security or regulations. I didn’t speak with anyone who wanted to close the borders and keep everyone out. Most people really fell in the middle; it was the inflamed rhetoric that created the appearance that people were amassed at the polar extremes, like angry mobs with pitchforks in their hands.

The heat of the immigration discussion has died down, but the issues haven’t gone away. President Biden has undone most or all of the executive orders issued by President Trump to tighten up border security and other immigration controls, but the laws haven’t changed.

We can expect less and enforcement and efforts to , but the laws haven’t changed. The issues haven’t been resolved. Our immigration system is still not very workable, and issues are bound to boil to the surface again and demand attention.

I first seriously dug into the “issue” of immigration in the Obama administration. I was buffeted by the opposing winds of the political rhetoric, but I wanted to know how Christians should view immigration… if there was a definitive Christian position to be taken. Most Christians knew were well-versed in the political rhetoric, but I wasn’t hearing a biblically focused critique of the subject.

The Syrian refugee crisis was flooding the news and my conscience. I had to confess that I didn’t know where God stood. I didn’t know what the Bible said on immigration, if anything. I wanted to step back from the political fray and do my own searching of Scripture and meditation to let God speak to me on the issue.


I spent a weekend searching the Scriptures. I discovered that the Bible has much to say on the subject. The terms, aliens, strangers and sojourners, were found throughout Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and those terms permeated everything from start to finish.

I found that Scripture speaks very clearly and directly on subject and left me little room to wonder how we ought to respond to immigration issues in our current day. I wrote about it for the first time in November 12, 2014 in the article, Immigration: the Strangers Among Us.

God’s “view” of immigrants is closely aligned with how God relationship with Abraham and his descendants. We might forget that told Abraham his descendants “would be foreigners in a strange land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years”. (Gen. 15:13; and Acts 7:6) Thus, Abraham’s faith prompted him to live “like a stranger in a foreign country” (as did Isaac and Jacob) (Heb. 11:9)

“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Hebrews 11:10

In fact, this status of being an alien and a stranger on the earth applies to all people of faith in the past:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Hebrews 11:13-16

The status of God’s people as aliens and strangers was built into the very fabric of the their relationship with God and emphasized by centuries of living with that status.

Continue reading “Loving the Sojourner Because God Loves the Sojourner”

How Core Identity and Lived Experience Affects Our Views on Immigration in the Church

People of faith live as aliens and strangers on this earth because we look forward to a better country

What is your identity? Are you just a name? A member of a family? A citizen of a country?

We might give different answers in different contexts, to the question, depending on who is asking “Who are you”? To a certain extent, our identity flows out of our lived experiences.

I identify as a son, a member of a larger family with ancestors who settled in Naperville, IL after emigrating from the Alsace region of France/Germany. I identify as a father and a husband. I identify as the son of a father, who is a lawyer, and I identify as a lawyer myself.

I also identify as a born-again Christian, oen who was once lost and is now found, a follower of Jesus Christ in the process of being renewed in my mind conformed to the image of God.

How we identify ourselves in an ultimate sense reflects our core values and what is ultimately most important to us. Thus, if someone is asking me about my highest identity, or the basis of all identities, or what is my central identify out of which all other identities now flow, I would say I identity as a child of God and follower of Jesus.

Such is the effect of being born again: born into the family of God – born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8) It means that we now cry to God, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15) “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Gal. 4:6)

Our identity as children of God flows out of our experience of being born again. This identity is first and foremost. It is the identity that qualifies all other identities.

Or, at least it should….

Other identities flow from being born again. We no longer identify as being of the world, though we continue to live in the world. (John 17:16) We identify as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we identify as “aliens and strangers” in this world. (1 Pet. 2:11)

We know these things, but we might ask, “How much has this identify taken ahold of me?” And, “How much do I identify as a child of God, a citizen of heaven, no longer of this world, but an alien and stranger here?”

“Is this my experience? Do I live this out as my fundamental identity?”


The pull of the world is great. I have to be honest, myself: I experience long stretches of time in which I could not say with integrity that I am living as an alien and stranger in this world. I find myself identifying more closely than I should, perhaps, with things of this world. My experience doesn’t always reveal close alignment with my citizenship in heaven.

The following story really brought the reality of the effect of experience on personal identity home to me. It showed me that how we identify at the core of our being is tied into lived experience, and our lived experience reveals our hearts.

Continue reading “How Core Identity and Lived Experience Affects Our Views on Immigration in the Church”

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 that view, 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. That perception isn’t accurate, and assuming an all or nothing approach is counterproductive.

Another perception we need to contend with is the notion that 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?”