An important issue for the American people, and indeed for the Christian interested in biblical response, is that of immigration. In part one of this editorial, the issue of public policy was highlighted while the issue of nationalism was highlighted in part two. Special attention was given to the issue of legal immigration. Yet, the question of illegal immigration seems to be the pressing issue of the hour, and indeed the one given the least amount of thought from a biblical worldview. Thoughts from Christians abound and most do not give the appearance of having been given careful consideration in light of the Scriptures. Kevin Boling, co-host of "Calling for Truth," frames the issue with some relevant questions: "Should Christians welcome all immigrants to this country without any reservation? In light of the terrorist threat, should Christians be more cautious in their acceptance of immigrants? Is the Mexican Border just a back door for al-Qaeda? Where should we draw the line?"
Illegal immigration poses a different dynamic than legal immigration in at least four areas. First, we can safely oppose some illegal immigration from a biblical perspective in that God has indeed ordained governments and the laws those governments pass whether good or evil from a Christian perspective (Rom. 13:1f). Thus, we could not advocate the wholesale violation of a country's laws. We submit to those in authority over us. That does not mean that we cannot speak against evil laws, but it does mean that we submit to them as long as we are not violating biblical principles in so doing. We cannot sin against God as He is our ultimate authority. We must ultimately obey Him rather than men (Acts 5:29). Thus, unless asked to violate biblical principle, we submit to the government.
Second, we can safely oppose the immigration of those who would seek to do us harm. The immigration issue would almost be a non-issue if it were not for this reality. As noted, we encourage immigration for economic reasons, for reasons related to the principles upon which this country was founded (liberty and justice for all), and for reasons related to a Christian worldview. At the very least we would want to share the blessings with which we've been graced. Yet, civil government should exist to protect the citizenry that they might enjoy life and liberty, according to the American ideal at least. Thus, those who seek to do us harm should be kept out by that same civil government.
Third, from a Christian perspective, we could not keep out illegal immigrants who were fleeing persecution. This reality would apply to both Christians and non-Christians alike. An illustration might prove helpful here. The oft raised question of whether or not Christians hiding Jews in Nazi Germany should lie or give the hiding Jews up when the SS Officers knock on the door is an apt parallel. Good men differ on this issue, yet, it seems obvious that the Christian would be obligated to lie to the officers in that context by virtue of the biblical principle of the sanctity of human life. While some would disagree because of a commitment to the law (a commitment I share), both civil law and God's law I might add, and say that one must never lie, and that one sins if he does so, if one takes the Scriptures as a whole, one may conclude that lying is not only not sin in that instance, but, a righteous act.
One Scriptural text may help us to decide the issue here. In Ex. 1:15-20, the King of Egypt orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all the male children born. These midwives did not kill the male children but hid them because they feared God more than the King. Moreover, when asked for an explanation from the King, they lied to him. God dealt well with them because of their action including their lie (v. 20). They acted righteously. In a similar manner, it is righteous to save lives in Nazi Germany or in twenty-first century America. If persons are fleeing for their lives, we are under obligation to protect them regardless of the law of the land as God's law takes priority.
Moreover, our Lord Jesus told us to flee to the next city if we are persecuted in this one (Matt. 10:23). Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus and fled into Egypt at the direction of the Lord (Matt. 2:13). We cannot turn persons away who are fleeing persecution. And let me ask a question to those who say we cannot tolerate illegal immigration of any kind and all persons must be stopped at the borders because we must submit to the government. While I too affirm that we must submit to the government and deplore the spirit of rebellion displayed in some, that submission is not absolute as noted earlier. If you faced the type of persecution we see so often in the world today simply by virtue of being Christian, (the two girls who were beheaded in Indonesia recently are a case in point), and if you were literally running for your life across the border, would you stop to inquire about the emigration laws of your own country and the immigration laws of the one to which you were fleeing? The answer seems obvious.
Fourth, it would seem extremely difficult on a Christian worldview to turn people away who are simply seeking a better life. When families who mean no harm and are simply looking for a better life, one that does not involve utter poverty and misery, and when they are willing to risk everything and cross the desert and its many perils for a simple chance at freedom and a full belly, it would be un-biblical to turn them away. The love of Christ must prevail in our hearts and actions. Surely we do not want to have to say these words to our Lord: "...Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger (alien; foreigner; immigrant), or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you (Matt. 25:44)?" It is the wicked who "...slay the widow and the stranger (alien; foreigner; immigrant), and murder the fatherless (Ps. 94:6)." Let us have the mind of Christ.
Let us not be callused and selfish as if we deserved to live in this place and they do not. None of us deserves the privileges we have in America. We are here by the grace of God alone. We do not have special status by virtue of our birth in this geographical location. We are not better than others. We may have special status on the human plane by state decree as American citizens, but, before God, we stand on equal ground. We stand at the foot of the cross in need of grace. We are to be gracious to others as God in Christ was gracious to us.
[Scroll Down for Parts I and II]
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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