Immigration, Truth, and the Great Commission
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.
- 2006 Jun 15
Christians deal in truth. They don't deal in exaggeration, association, innuendo, or partial truth to make themselves or their case look better. At least that's the way it's supposed to be. No doubt Christians fall into such error because while they are redeemed, they still war with the influence of the flesh and lose out sometimes. Our sinful desires influence us to do things that the new creatures we really are would not want to do.
At other times, we may fall into logical error without realizing it because we don't fully understand the implications of our logic. In those cases, we are not talking about a sin but a bona fide error. With that said, because Christians deal in truth, there are issues that need to be elucidated from a Christian worldview and when enough people seek to provide that elucidation, some of the things that are said need to be amended or corrected for the sake of Christ and His word.
The subject of immigration is that important. Not only must we solve the problem of porous borders and illegal activity, but we must do so without forgetting larger issues that we as Christians must consider. In other words, the Christian worldview must influence our thinking. That said, an analogy has been posted on a number of conservative websites that bears some scrutiny from those of us who are Christian conservatives, because we are Christians. No doubt the original author meant well, but an error in logic is present and should be corrected so that Christians may continue to discuss this critical issue and in so doing move forward in the iron sharpening process.
The analogy is as follows: "Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the U.S. might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely."
The author continues: "Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests. Let's say I break into your house. Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, 'I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).'"
"According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest, (except for that breaking in part). If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there. It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm hard-working and honest ... um, except for... well, you know. And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice and being anti-housebreaker."
The writer concludes: "Did I miss anything? Does this sound reasonable to you? If it does, grab a sign and go picket something. If this sounds insane to you, call your senators and enlighten them because they are stumbling in the darkness right now and really need your help."
We certainly understand the frustration this individual expresses. However, as noted, a logical error under girds these comments and gives rise to a few implications.
First, the analogy breaks down at the most basic level in that typically speaking, one owns a home because he/she has worked for it in some way, purchased it with that hard earned money, and now has sole right to its usage and/or disposal. Our citizenship in America cannot be compared to our ownership of that home on a one to one basis. We are here by God's grace. God is the One who, before we were born, "determined the bounds of our habitation (Acts 17:26)." We did not work for or purchase our citizenship in any way. We do not have sole right to anything before God. In this immigration debate, we act as if we deserve to live here and others do not because they were born in another geographical location. One might argue from a geo-political perspective that Americans have a special right to be here while others do not, but, from a biblical perspective, no one deserves to live here any more than anyone else. We are here at the pleasure of God and such arrogance on our part does not please Him nor does it bring Him glory.
Second, the analogy breaks down economically. Our purpose is to provide a biblical perspective, so we won't say much by way of economics. Suffice it to say that immigrants are good for the economy contrary to what many are saying. Further, the fact that people want to participate in the welfare state is largely owing to the existence of the welfare state itself. You can't expect depraved or ignorant people not to want to avail themselves of a handout. While it is right not to want to put illegal immigrants on the public dole, we ought to be equally, if not more, frustrated over the welfare state itself and the perpetuation of it by politicians who have their own interests at heart rather than the real welfare of their constituents.
Third, while we should be concerned with national security, the rule of law, and related issues, we must affirm that there are hard working, honest immigrants, who do want citizenship. It is too easy to lump all immigrants, even illegal immigrants, into the same category. The reality is that many indeed have come here simply to put food on their tables as the conditions they left are shockingly deplorable. Remember, the Scripture says, "Men do not despise a thief, if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry (Prov. 6:30)." That which conditions our thinking, even on an issue as important as this one to those of us who are conservative, American, and Christian is the word of God, not the political rhetoric of the party to which most of us affiliate for lack of something better.
Fourth, while Christians are told to submit to the authorities placed over them by God (Romans 13), and we gladly and willing do so, we must also remember that non-Christians do not act like Christians. Does that fact mean that we don't hold non-Christians accountable for breaking the law? God forbid! But, it does mean that we view someone crossing an arbitrary boundary in the sand looking for a better way of life for his family differently than we view a murderer or even a thief. While we cited Prov. 6:30 above, it is difficult for us to call the vast majority of illegal immigrants thieves simply for crossing that line. Many of them are in fact responsible members of this society. Certainly the Lord is concerned with justice. At the same time, He commands Christians to be gracious because He has been gracious to us (Eph. 4:32). Remember, we too were strangers at one time, both to salvation, and, by way of our ancestors, to this land of plenty. Let us not be selfish but gracious where we can.
Fifth, we must be very careful as Christians to keep the issues of immigration from a legal, political, and national perspective separate from our view of the immigrants themselves. In other words, as Chuck Colson has rightly pointed out, we must not move from dealing with the issue of illegal immigration to demonizing the immigrants.
Consider Colson’s comments: "Did you know that '95 percent of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens?' Or that '75 percent of people on the Most Wanted List in Los Angeles are illegal aliens?' What's more, 'Over [two-thirds] of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on [Medicaid] whose births were paid for by taxpayers.'" Colson then adds, "This is outrageous. Especially since none of it is true!"
"This example came from a widely circulated e-mail that was posted on at least 130 conservative websites. It listed ten 'facts about immigration' and gave as its source the Los Angeles Times." Further, this example is just the tip of the iceberg according to Colson. Among other errors is the notion that illegal immigration is about re-conquering the American Southwest. This red herring is a fabrication in that only a few fringe, Latino groups talk of such.
Sixth, ultimately, numerous times in Scripture the Lord tells His people how to deal with immigrants. "And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:33-34)." Again, that does not mean we are not concerned with lawbreakers. But, as I have noted in other articles dealing with this issue from a broader, biblical perspective with some suggested solutions, and, as Colson affirms, we must treat this issue from a biblically informed perspective and welcome immigrants who mean us no harm for the glory of God.
Seventh, by way of asking a question, what do you suppose God is up to in bringing immigrants to us? Not everyone has the ability to go to the nations in a physical sense, and yet, we have the Great Commission. Is it possible that God, in this global neighborhood in which we find ourselves, is bringing the nations to us? And, if so, what should we Christians be doing about it? Should we be figuring out how to get them out, or, should we be figuring out how to get them saved? Are we America-minded or gospel-minded? Are we willing to give up some comfort for the sake of souls and the glory of Christ or are we cultural Christians after all?
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