Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In Exodus 22 and 23, the Israelites are told not to oppress foreigners, how does that apply to the current situation of illegal immigrants in our country?

Immigration takes the stage as a central hot topic issue. Let's make a few observations before attempting to answer the question. First off, the United States is not a theocracy like the Old Testament Israelites. Second, we cannot point to any Bible passage for U.S. regulation of the issue; and finally, we must submit to the laws of the land (see Romans 13). However, we have been a nation who has been biblically informed in decision making in the past. Think about these conversations on God’s character:

1.    God has always had a heart for those who are on the social fringes. God has a heart for the fatherless, widow, and the foreigner. (James 1:27 and Leviticus 19:24)
2.     The Holy Spirit calls us to bear fruits in keeping with love, gentleness, and kindness which are all perfectly reflected in Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:5)
3.    God loves all people no matter their ethnic status or background. (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 17:26)

It is clear that illegal immigration is against the law and we as believers cannot say that the law doesn’t matter. Illegal immigration provides benefits as well as some issues for the United States. With the surprising loss of life through abortions each year, someone needs to talk the low paying jobs and rent the low rent housing. So illegal immigrants do provide an economic benefit to the country and communities; however, the law must be honored.

So I would call for fellow believers to seek a balance between mercy and honoring the law.  A position that takes into consideration the mercy that these immigrants may desperately need in pursuit of better lives for themselves and their children but also honors the law. I would personally advocate for the option of a pathway towards citizenship with the reasonable penalty being paid as part of that process. Similar to a speeding ticket or a parking ticket, the punishment must fit the crime.

The oversimplified solution of putting all illegals on a boat sending them back to their country of origin lacks the needed gospel perspective. In 2010, the United States received over 42 million international immigrants, which was around 20% of the global total.[1] We must view this as not just a political issue but as a gospel issue. Immigration, legal or illegal, provides opportunities to fulfill the Great Commission. Dr. J.D. Payne points out that it is estimated that there are 361 unreached people groups in the United States.[2] As Christians, we have a responsibility to take the gospel to the immigrant, legal or not. Let’s not pass up the opportunity to meet the Acts 1:8 challenge in our backyards and across the street.

[1] Payne, J.D. Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2013), 63.
[2] Ibid.

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