Evangelicals and Immigration Reform


Jeff Barneson is a longtime staff member for InterVarsity's ministry to faculty and graduate students at Harvard University. 

The questions Christians should ask themselves go beyond the political.

The Bible (as in Leviticus 18:33-34) instructs the people of God to treat aliens in the land as though they were native-born. They are told to love the aliens as they love themselves, since they themselves were once aliens. Jesus even makes the disquieting suggestion (in Matthew 25:31ff) that neighborliness is a standard of God's judgment. "Lord," said the goats, "when did we see you a stranger and not invite you in?" For Right and Left, this is a serious challenge. Are we willing to love the alien neighbor as we love ourselves -- not just with the policies we advocate, but with our time, our relationships, and our money?

Another thought occurs to me as I consider how rapidly our country is changing through immigration: What if God's intention in the hyper-diversification of our country is akin to what happened when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Historians question whether the message of the early Christians, without the presence of the Romans, would have spread beyond the local setting of Jerusalem. What if the present situation in the United States is just another accelerated opportunity to bring good news to people who are more than ready to hear it? 

I believe it with all my heart: If we spend all our time and energy on the policy discussion, and never reorient our perspective and realign our congregations to engage with actual immigrants and their actual circumstances, we may miss out on the extraordinary opportunity that God has placed in front of us.

Or perhaps this is a backward way of thinking. What if God is sending the huddled masses here to meet our yearning? What if His Gospel cannot go forward right here in our own communities until we remember our alien status in this world, until we experience God's love for all His people everywhere?

[See the full reflection here.]

M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas)is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Theological Seminary and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.

What has been disconcerting to me is that all too often Christian responses in the United States to immigration are not different in any substantial way from the responses of those who do not profess the faith. Discussions tend to be limited to protecting national borders and "the American way of life." There are complaints about the supposed economic costs brought on by added pressures to schools, hospitals, and law enforcement. These are legitimate issues, but there is no explicitly Christian orientation to the debate. If there is, it usually is limited to quoting the call (in Romans 13) to submit to the governing authorities.

What might a more fully biblically informed response to the immigration challenge look like? Where would it begin? The starting place of a discussion determines in large measure its tone and content. If we begin with Genesis 1 and the fact that all humans are created in the image of God with infinite worth and great potential, the debate will be quite different than what is witnessed now in media sound-bites. It will focus on persons with needs and gifts that can contribute to the common good, instead of taking a default negative defensive posture against newcomers in our midst.

The Bible is a book of people on the move. The Old Testament law has a number of measures intended to protect the sojourner, and the New Testament describes Christians as sojourners in this fallen world. Paul teaches that Christians ultimately are neither Jew nor Greek, but one in Christ with those of different nationalities and social backgrounds.

A more biblically grounded look at immigration should generate a different kind of discussion, at least among Christians. The nation must attend to the pragmatic items listed above, but the way in which these are handled might change if Christians offered their unique voice and perspective.

[See the full reflection here.]

6/2/2010 4:00:00 AM
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