Immigration: A Biblical Perspective
As Christians, we know the Bible is the breathed-out Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It’s also our blueprint on how to morally live vertically (in relationship to God), and horizontally (in relationship to people). We know God has graciously given us the Bible, compromised of 66 books filled with more than 750,000 inspired and relevant words, so we might be informed on a plethora of topics, including immigration.
When it comes to the hot topic of Immigration in the United States, one of the healthiest things we can do as Christians is simply open up the Bible and see what God has to say about it. Although we have the right to have different perspectives on immigration politically and economically, we must first seek to have a biblical perspective.
However, many Christians fail to actually put this into practice. According to Lifeway Research 2015, only 12% of Christians primarily choose to view immigration from the Bible. In other words, 88% of Christians primarily choose to view immigration from something other than the Bible such as politics, economics, legality, and fear.
However, to view immigration from any of these perspectives before a Biblical perspective, has the potential to put a up wall of hostility, that Jesus destroyed on the cross, between our relationship with immigrants and Refugees, thus missing the beautiful opportunity of loving, caring, and advocating for them.
So what does the Bible say about immigration?
Image of God
There are so many passages, but I want to focus on the first book in the Bible. In Genesis 1:26-28, God speaks ontologically and functionally about humans. Ontologically, God says every human is made in His image. This include immigrants, documented and undocumented. This means immigrants have infinite value in God’s sight. He views them with delight and joy. Therefore, Christians should view them this way as well.
Functionally, God’s purpose for his image bearers—including immigrants, is to fill and subdue the earth, — rule, create, and have dominion. We have seen this played out with immigrants who have founded iconic companies such as Google, AT&T, eBay, Radio Shack, and Kohl’s to name a few. Immigrants, documented and undocumented, have tremendous potential to contribute wherever they are . Therefore, Christians should view them this way as well.
The ontological and functional truths found in Genesis 1:26-28 show us immigration is primarily about humans with a heart, soul, and mind who have tremendous potential. This is before it is about politics, economics, legality and fear. Genesis points us to the truth that Immigrants and Refugees should be a people to love, not problems to solve. And as Christians, we should understand that if immigrants have infinite value in God’s sight, then immigrants should also have infinite value in our sight.
I have been able to experience the ontological and functional truths God speaks about from Genesis 1:26-28 firsthand because I am married to an amazing Immigrant. My wife, Laura, who is Guatemalan, has been in the U.S. for five months. She has a degree in Business, fluency in English and Spanish, and is the Director of Human Resources for a solid non-profit ministry in Memphis, Tennessee.
When I read Genesis 1:26-28, I cannot help but tear up. What makes the passage real to me is not just that it is inspired Word of God, but that it is being lived out through my wife—and I have the privilege of witnessing this everyday. This compels me to wonder just how many Immigrants and Refugees are like my wife in the U.S., living out what Genesis 1:26-28 says. There are millions—they just need to be properly viewed as Image Bearers.
Since immigrants are made in the image of God, this should therefore compel us to see immigration as a missional opportunity.
In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the Nations.” The first thing that usually pops out to us here is the word go coupled with the words every nation, compelling the desire to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to a foreign country, which is great and needed.
However, in the original language, Jesus’ command are the words “Make disciples.” Therefore, not only should we be compelled to go make disciples in other countries, but we should also be compelled to make disciples here in the United States.
Making disciples consists of global AND local missions. And in the United States alone, there are 50 million immigrants—11 million being undocumented. We have a profound opportunity as Christians to obey Jesus’ command and make disciples of immigrants in the cities, neighborhoods, and the communities we live in.
For Christians, viewing immigration from a Biblical perspective before a political, economic, legality and fearful perspective is of utmost importance. The Bible—God’s very breathed out words, is our blueprint on how to live in the world.
The Bible clearly shows us that immigrants, legal and illegal, are made in the Image of God with tremendous value. Only by viewing immigration biblically will prompt the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus it is called to be. Only by loving and caring for immigrants will help the great state of Tennessee look more like the Kingdom of God.
How much would our cities, neighborhoods, and Churches change for the better if we chose to view Refugees and Immigrants, documented and undocumented, as Humans made in God’s Image?