Immigrants and Immigration (6)
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10.17-19
Love for sojourners
The Law of God was given to Israel to guide the people of God in learning how to love Him and their neighbors. The Law did not save Israel; God had already graciously delivered them from captivity in Egypt before He gave them His Law. The Law was not intended as yoke or burden, keeping people from the things they really wanted to do. It was designed to encourage justice, order, safety, and love within the communities of Israel, and to serve as a witness to the surrounding nations. By cultivating love for God through its various religious precepts and practices, the Law would encourage love for neighbors in all civil matters.
Thus, the Law of God, as Paul explained, is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). It is the Law of love and of liberty (Ps. 119.44, 45; 1 Jn. 5.1-3; Jms. 2.8-13). The Law is established as the standard for individual righteousness and for a good and just society (Rom. 3.31). The Law of God is thus well able to speak into matters of public policy, such as the present crisis of immigration.
We’ve seen that God has much to say about “strangers and sojourners” who, observing His blessings on Israel, come to wander among them for a season or even to make Israel their permanent home. When God blesses a people, the nations can’t help but notice, and many will seek those blessings for themselves.
Americans take pride in the fact that ours is a “nation of immigrants.” But unless we turn to the counsel of God’s Law, that pride in “strangers and sojourners” could turn into suspicion, scorn, and even hate. The Law of God can guide us in thinking about how we as a nation can love those who come to us from other countries with the kind of love that finds favor with God and conduces to a just and loving society.
Here, based on the brief survey of God’s Law we have been examining in this part of our study of the Law of God and public policy, are some thoughts about how to proceed in the work of immigration reform in America today. These guidelines can be transformed into meaningful public policies, if believers are willing to take seriously their role as “we the people” in helping to improve the way we are governed, and if we are consistent in making use of all the loci in which matters of public policy are considered.
First, the Law of God encourage us to seek a new attitude toward immigrants and immigration. Rather than fear and despise them, as is increasingly the case, we must learn to love the strangers among us as God does. The Church can take the lead here by making love for strangers an aspect of its local ministries, and by encouraging an attitude of thanksgiving to God both for the strangers in our midst and the abundant blessings of God of which their presence reminds us.
Second, believers should lead the way in seeking local solutions to the immigration crisis, especially church-based solutions. Again, local churches could render a valuable service to their communities, the nation, and immigrants from all over the globe if they made it part of their ministry to reach out locally to the strangers in their midst with programs and services designed to help them get work and become contributing members of the local community. Churches will have the most success in this effort if they work together with other churches rather than try to assume all the burden of this outreach alone.
Third, we must insist that government enforce the laws of the land, eliminating or rewriting any that unfairly favor immigrants or otherwise exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration. The minimum wage law, for example, encourages illegal immigration and sends wealth out of this country to be spent in other markets elsewhere. Because certain employers bypass the minimum wage law to pay their illegal workers in cash, they also rob the Treasury of tax revenue, thus further strain the tax burden on law-abiding citizens.
Fourth, we should encourage government to review policies on quotas, visiting workers, and foreign students. Perhaps we need to create a new status for foreigners who wish to stay in the country on a long-term basis, but without the need or expectation of becoming citizens. At the same time, we must protect America’s borders, not use them to political advantage by disregarding existing immigration laws and policies. At the same time, we should make the route to citizenship an easier road for those desiring to pursue it. Here again is an area where churches could participate in the process more actively and fruitfully.
Finally, we should support policies that require all immigrants who intend a long-term tenure, whether or not citizenship is a goal, to find and maintain work. We must demonstrate no tolerance of immigrants—or others—who violate American law. If the policy was to deport without possibility of return any foreigners who show contempt for American law or the immigration policies of the land, we might find that to be a helpful part of the process of enhancing the immigrant population.
Many of these ideas are already being discussed. This should encourage us in two ways.
First, these discussions provide opportunities for Christians and our churches to join the conversation about immigration policy and make a positive contribution. And second, they give us an opportunity to demonstrate how the Law of God remains a potent source of insight and counsel in helping us to bring the blessings of God to our nation.
We do not anticipate that every believer will be called to active involvement in immigration reform. But every believer prays, and even adding such concerns as this to our prayer lives enhances the likelihood that God will hear our prayers and show mercy to our land.
1. Do you pray for immigrants? Or about present policies and situations? How might you begin to pray more consistently and specifically?
2. If Christians do nothing to help in the present immigration crisis, what is likely to happen?
3. How can you encourage your church—or groups within your church—to pray more consistently for the strangers and sojourners in our midst?
Next steps—Preparation: Adjust your prayer life to spend more time praying for immigrants and immigration. Use the studies in this series to guide your prayers.
T. M. Moore
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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.