We are in the midst of a politically charged season. As U.S. citizens prepare to elect the most powerful person in the world, a variety of issues have surfaced. One of the vital issues of the presidential election is how the next president will handle immigrants.
As a Christian, will you respond from a place of biblical conviction or unwarranted fear?
In the early years of the United States there was an “US vs THEM” mentality between white and black people. Many white people celebrated the evil institution of slavery – to the point of exploiting religion in order to abuse their slaves.
In the midst of this tremendously dark situation, Methodist and Baptist churches began to swell with African-Americans (both slave and free). Nathan O. Hatch, in his excellent book on Christianity in the early U.S. explains, “Early Baptists and Methodists earned the right to be heard. They welcome African-Americans as full participants in their communities and condemned the institution of slavery.”
In the 1800s the church experienced rapid growth because they took Peter’s revelation seriously:
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” – Acts 10:34-35
This is an incredibly powerful verse that should influence how we respond to peoples of other cultures:
1. God does not view us through a national lens.
Contrary to popular belief, God does not have a favorite nation. God no longer views people through the lens of a national culture as He once did with Israel. This does not mean that patriotism is wrong; it does mean that patriotism which demonizes another country or culture IS wrong.
God does not elevate the United States or Israel (or any other country) on a pedestal above everyone else. There is no such thing as a truly “Christian” nation. A theocracy today would be a gross misinterpretation of Biblical truth.
2. God accepts us based on faith.
As a Christian, you should feel more solidarity with a refugee who follows Jesus than an American who doesn’t. We hold a dual citizenship in this world – we are citizens of God before we are citizens of the State.
As we enter into the New Jerusalem we will not be waving a flag with stripes and stars. We will be adorned in robes made clean by the blood of Christ. Our unity with others will be secured by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – not our culture, politics, language, or national identity.
3. God loves immigrants.
Being an immigrant seeking refuge is a picture of the Christian life. We exist on this planet as exiles and aliens; living in a world of which we never truly belong. Out of all people, Christians should be the most compassionate towards foreigners.
But what about foreigners who hold to the Muslim faith?
God loves them as well. He sees each of them as individuals made in His image and desires to have a personal relationship with them. Rather than bemoaning those who follow the Muslim faith, what if we showered them with unrelenting love and mercy? What if we lived out the Gospel truth that Jesus tears down the dividing walls of hostility that separate people (Eph. 2:14)?
Many immigrants are fleeing war-torn countries. They have two options: stay in their country and allow themselves to be brutally murdered or… flee! If we reject refugees out of a sense of fear, we will face the judgment of God. I find it convenient that many Christians ignore what the Scriptures teach on immigration (here are a few):
“There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.” – Exodus 12:49
When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34
“Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.” – Deuteronomy 1:1
Isn’t it ironic that many Christians claim the United States is a Christian nation and yet reject refugees and immigrants out of fear?
Christians, let’s ask different questions:
How can we make our churches more inviting to immigrants and refugees?
How can we show with our actions that God loves them and desires a relationship with them?
How do we live the crucified life, dying to ourselves, in order to display the love of Christ?