Writing about any theme that has political implications is difficult. However, our understanding of life should not be based primarily on political, economic, or cultural values. Even though it is unavoidable to be free from them, our understanding of life and the world should be primarily based on the Word of God. Then our answers and perspectives will rise above of what political parties and activists are offering.
Immigration is a very complex issue. In order to apply Biblical principles to our present issues, we need to better understand them. It might seem obvious, but many of us like to give opinions in subjects that we don’t understand. Lack of understanding tends to give simplistic answers.
Immigration is complex because there are many different circumstances for immigration, varying from escaping war to trying to better oneself economically. There’s legal immigration and illegal immigration. It is complex because immigration laws change continually. Immigration law is as complex as tax laws! The actual laws disqualify any path to legalization for some people. For others, it offers avenues that might not end up in “documentation”. Not all immigrants want to become citizens. For some “documentation” is a working visa. Others only seek legal residence, but not citizenship. For those who qualify for legal status there are periods that vary from months up to decades of waiting. There is also the humanitarian factor besides the mechanics of the legalities. We could also talk about how laws are abused or how people are abused when legal citizens want cheap labor. We need to remember any law will benefit some and will complicate or work against others. While we can keep adding to the complexity, I hope the previous comments will help us to see how intricate immigration is. So, whatever solutions or perspectives we offer will be limited.
My goal in this brief blog is not political nor do I want to create government policy. The main goal is to explain why I don’t believe the responsibilities and laws for the nation of Israel described in the Bible towards the sojourners and foreigners should be applied to the United States as a nation. The responsibilities towards the immigrants, to help them, to treat them fairly, to welcome them are to be, in principle, applied to the Church, the “new Israel”; to us, the “Christian individual”.
We need to distinguish between our role as Christian individuals and our role as US citizens. Let’s explore the policy of bringing refugees from Syria making that distinction. The US as a nation is not obligated to the Christian duty to provide help for the needy. The main role of government is to protect its citizens. So, as US citizens, we don’t need to advocate in favor of that policy.
However, if the refugees are here, whether good or bad policy, it is our duty as “Christian individuals” to help the stranger. By the way, in these cases help usually is not mainly economic. What immigrants need most and the church should provide is time and friendship. The church should help people to adapt to their new residence by befriending them, inviting them to be a part of their social circle, and creating in the church a space for relationships to be formed.
As US citizens we should be aware of the high risk of infiltration of jihadists in the refugee population. Then advocating for tighter immigration controls and extreme vetting is a legitimate role as American citizens. But if we meet Syrian refugees, we as individual Christians, still have the duty to love the stranger.
While conclusions on policies will differ, I hope that you can see how dividing roles can help us to form opinions and positions about the responsibilities that we have as US citizens and as Christian individuals.
The Syrian refugee issue is only one aspect of the immigration debate. But, there are so many other aspects. We could talk about Latin-American immigration, the most common in our area. But even then, each country in Latin-America has unique circumstances, and individual families situations make it more complex! But, I still believe that the same basic principles apply. The US as a nation and the Christian individual have two different roles.
As American Citizens, informed by a Christian World view, should advocate for what we believe is best for the United States as a nation.
Some people, even with the same principles, might conclude that we should have a more open policy. That is okay as long as we truly believe that this is best for the nation and not motivated by personal reasons or sentiment.
We may end up with a strong position against immigration. That is perfectly okay, as long as it is a thoughtful and not a sinfully motivated decision. Even advocating as US citizens for a strong position on immigration, our responsibility as Christian individuals is to love the stranger, the immigrant, treating them with dignity and respect.
Is it possible to live with such dichotomy? Jesus called the Jews, “to give Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s”. For the first century Jew, it seemed impossible to support the Roman government and be a faithful follower of Jehovah. But Jesus called for that.
We should be able to do the same, fulfill our responsibilities as US citizens and individual Christians. If we are willing to put behind prejudice, as we seek the Lord’s will, it’ll be easier to distinguish between Caesar’s will and God’s will. Then we can give both what is due to each one.
We are called to communicate the love of God and to love the immigrant even if we advocate for stronger stands in immigration law. How would that look like? How do we, personally, need to act? It’ll vary from case to case. We must seek God’s wisdom and be prudent at each step, just as with any relationship.
First, we are not immigration agents; we can’t treat people according to their immigration status. As Christian individuals we are called to serve and love ALL people. As we fulfill our duty as Christian individuals, we will learn more and be better informed to make decisions as US citizens when we go to the voting booth.
But from now to the next election time, we should behave as Christians. There are many issues including immigration that cause division in the body of Christ and attitudes and behaviors that we should repent of. There are Christians offending each other and personally attacking each other, and judging motives. That should never be part of a Christian’s life! As Citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven our priority is not to make policy. Our primary responsibility is to honor our King loving Him and our neighbor, communicating the gospel through our words and through our testimony. Then, as a citizen of this great nation we must exercise our rights in Election Day. Go and vote your conscience! In the meantime, you can discuss different points of views with respect and with a willingness to learn.
May God bless you and may God Bless America!
If you have questions or comments please email Pastor Eliel Rojas.