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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Attraction of Justice

Everybody wants it.

Immigrants and Immigration (1)

“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to themin the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4.5, 6

Foreigners and sojourners
Having addressed, if only in outline, the teaching of God’s Law on the duty of caring for the poor, we now take up a related concern. What does the Law of God teach about the presence of foreigners, or “strangers and sojourners,” among the people who walk according to the Law of God? That the question of foreign immigration is much on the minds of Americans and Europeans these days is news to no one. Are the policies our governments are following in this issue just and good? Do they promote love for neighbors?

What is the responsibility of those who live within the framework of the divine economy for those among them who come from a different social structure? What policies should guide our practice on the topic of immigrants and immigration?

Foundational to God’s covenant is the promise that His people will be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12.1-3). Another way of saying this is that, while God chose to work through a single nation throughout the period of the Old Testament, His concern has always been that the blessings of life—especially justice and love—should be extended to all peoples in all nations and cultures. We see this hinted at in the Old Testament by the inclusion of Gentiles such as Rahab and Ruth into the covenant people of God, as well as the numerous prophetic promises of a coming day when the light of God’s truth and love would extend to all peoples.

As the apostles were able to discern, in line with God’s promises to Abraham, those who have faith in God through Jesus Christ are the chosen means whereby He intends to bring the blessings of life to the world. This is accomplished supremely by the people of God being ambassadors of His Kingdom and heralds of salvation through Jesus Christ.

However, God intends His people to bless the nations in other than spiritual ways as well, although never completely apart from spiritual objectives (cf. Jer. 29.7).

Justice and love
The economics of justice encoded in the Law of God can lead to public policies that promote love for God and neighbor. Righteousness, meekness, justice, and equity obtain where God rules over His people by His Word and Spirit (cf. Pss. 45.6; 99.4). This is the way people were meant to live together in community, and this is what the Holy Spirit comes to do as He redeems those whom God has chosen and builds them together into a holy temple unto the Lord (Ezek. 36.26, 27; Eph. 2.19-22). When God’s people fulfill this calling, wisdom and understanding prevail and are manifest, and the steadfast love of God, which sustains all things, comes to the surface in all human roles, relationships, and responsibilities.

All people have the works of God’s Law written on their hearts, where it can be read by their consciences, either to condemn or confirm them in their actions (Rom. 2.14, 15). Thus, inherent in what it means to be human is to seek justice and to long for righteousness, equity, and neighbor-love.

Certainly the human conscience can become immune to such longings, after years of suppressing the knowledge of God and worshiping idols (Rom. 1.18-32); nevertheless, in most people this desire to live safely, securely, in peace and prosperity represents a perpetual longing and hope.

It is thus to be expected that, in any community, any nation where justice is the prevailing virtue, people from other places will take note, the longings of their hearts will be plucked, and their souls will stir with the prospect of realizing such hope for themselves. And in the case of many people, this will mean moving toward the source and context of such hope, transplanting themselves from their native country or community, and seeking relocation in those places where the justice of God obtains (cf. Mic. 4.1-5).

While many came to the American colonies with the primary motive of seeking their fortunes, the driving force for the large majority of immigrants was religious and personal freedom, as Barry Alan Shain has shown (The Myth of American Individualism). That same motive continued to attract scores of immigrants to America during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today people come to America largely, I suspect, for the freedom to pursue material wealth and happiness which our blessed nation affords. This general objective has largely supplanted the desire for justice everywhere in the world, but it still appeals to the same, deep longings of the human soul: the longing for the “good life” (although, thus construed and pursued, it can only lead to disappointment in the end). This makes it a difficult task to interpret the Law of God into policies regarding immigrants and immigration, since the motive of “getting and spending” can often cloud the intention of God’s Law to provide a framework of justice, equity, and love.

Add to that the undisguised political motivations and the blatant disregard of immigration laws and policies that has been the practice in recent years, and Americans—including American Christians— have little taste for thinking seriously and Biblically about immigrants and immigrations.

However, here is an area in which God’s people may expect to discover something of the wisdom and understanding of God, so that we may fulfill our calling as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God and work to realize, if only at the temporal level, the Lord’s blessing for this nation. The Law of God offers sound counsel in helping us to think about the kinds of policies and practices which any nation should pursue if it expects to know the favor of the Lord in dealing with immigrants.

For reflection
1. How would you describe your own “taste” for thinking Biblically about immigrants and immigration? Why is it this way?

2. America is often referred to as a “nation of immigrants”. Why is that? Is that a good thing?

3. What kinds of interactions do you have with people who have immigrated here from another nation?

Next steps—Preparation: Pray daily that God will give you a heart for immigrants that matches His.

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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