Darryl's thoughts on the Christian Faith, Facts, and World Events
Mention the "I"-Word (immigration) and many people on all sides immediately get triggered and polarized. I have attempted to stay silent on this issue but it is so divisive that Christians are getting divided over it. I also have noticed that a lot of Bible verses get misused in support of one position or another, so I feel compelled to attempt to help correct some of these issues.
I have observed that the less people know about immigration and immigrants the more emotionally charged and less rational their perspective on this issue--on all sides. Here are some reasons why I am not super freaked out about this issue, in any direction. I have lived as an immigrant in Cambodia, Japan, and short-term in in other countries most of the time since 2000 so I know how stressful, expensive, and time consuming obeying immigration laws can be. My wife and I have also been through the stress and expense of obtaining and keeping her US Green Card since 2004. I have taught, ministered to, and been friends with many immigrants (both legal and illegal) for many years as well. Even though I am neither a theologian nor a lawyer I happen to know something about both--degrees in political science and Christian apologetics. So, I ask that you take a deep breath, calm down, and consider what I write seriously instead of just calling me names like "xenophobe", "anti-immigrant", "racist" or "bleeding-heart liberal" etc. If you still disagree, that is fine with me. I just hope that you will do your own Biblical research, allow the Bible to guide your thinking on this issue and not allow your feelings or political affiliation to be your final authority.
1. The Bible Commands Immigration:
The main reason why I am an immigrant is because as a missionary, I am commanded to emigrate for the sake of the Gospel. Not everyone is called or commanded to emigrate but the Great Commission commands all Christians to either directly go as missionaries themselves or "go" indirectly by supporting missionaries in various ways. Let's take a look at the Great Commission itself for further insights.
Matthew 18: 18-20, "Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Notice the phrase, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me." This phrase is the reasoning behind Acts 5:27-29, "The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!"
Because Jesus has ALL authority in heaven and on earth, the Great Commission is supersedes national level immigration laws because it is based on God's higher law. Therefore, it is Biblically acceptable to violate immigration laws for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. This may be done directly and personally in various ways or indirectly through media. This decision should not be taken lightly, done without prayer, Bible study, and wise counsel. Violators must be willing and able to gladly accept whatever penalties may come as the result of their actions.
For this reason, as an American, I must oppose all proposals and movements to shut off all avenues of legal immigration because in one hundred years missionaries from Cambodia may be called to go to the USA in order to evangelize Americans who have forgotten the Gospel. I don't want them to be forced to violate any laws in order to obey God's higher law.
However, as I will discuss later, I don't believe that Christians have the Biblical freedom to violate immigration or any other laws for the purposes of getting a better job, a more comfortable life, or other lower level reasons.
2. Give To Caesar...
Every year I file my USA taxes because my money and the tax forms all have the "image of Caesar" (US government's name and/or seal on them). I don't like obeying the tax laws. I would change them if I could. But I obey the tax laws because of Matthew 22:17-21 which says, "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied." Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
I obtain and renew my driver's license because of Cambodia's and the USA's image on them. In order to be a legal immigrant in Cambodia, my family and I must spend hundreds of dollars on passports from two countries. We must also spend around $600 yearly for Cambodia work permits and $900 annually for Cambodia visas. There is also the expense every 10 years of renewing Kayo's USA Green Card. All of these documents have "Caesar's image" on them. All of the fees that are charged are actually taxes that the Bible gives the government the right to take. Failing to pay your taxes is a form of theft. Therefore entering a country without the proper documentation is a form of theft against the government of that country. Obtaining false or stolen identification documents are also a form of theft, just as entering a movie theater or concert without a ticket, with a stolen ticket, or with a fake ticket. So unless you are entering a country illegally in order to obey God's law, that is a sin against God.
Even if you are obeying God's law, God has still given the government the right and power to make and enforce their own laws. Check out Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3:13-14 & 21-22 which says, "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”"...Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." Don't complain if you get caught, are punished, or get deported. God will still take care of you. There are several examples of people disobeying immoral laws (Daniel prayed and spent the night in the lions' den etc.) in the Bible which are worth studying. However, the default setting should always be to obey the law and support the effective, efficient, equal, fair, and just etc. enforcement of laws because the Bible also speaks against lawlessness. www.openbible.info/topics/lawlessness
The Bible also encourages us to go to great lengths in order to repeal or modify laws which are not good for various reasons. The book of Esther is a great example of this process. Esther even risked her own life by violating a law in order to fight a law which violated God's law.
3. The Bible Condemns Racism Of All Kinds
In the Old Testament, God's people were commanded not to interact with people of other nations but that was only because of their sinful activities (idol worship, child sacrifice etc.) and not because of their skin color or nationality. God did not want His people to become corrupted. Ezekiel 20:32 says, "You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen." This is the same message behind 1 Corinthians 15:33, which says, "Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." The key term is "residing". Residing means that one has legal residence status. It does not indicate that they are in violation of the "render to Ceasar" laws mentioned above.
For example, my family and I are renting an apartment. We are all residents of this apartment. This means that we all have a legal right to live in this apartment. According to our lease agreement, we have the legal right to reside in apartment #501. However, we do not have the right to live in #502 without making arrangements with the owner. If #502 is vacant (or not) and we go there, pick the lock, kick open the door, or even if the door is unlocked and we go move over there, we are not legal residents. Without getting permission and paying the rent for #502, we would be stealing from the landlord. Therefore the landlord would be perfectly justified in having the police to remove us from #502. If I buy computer A from the computer store it would be stealing for me to go to the store and take computer B (which I like better because it has a bigger screen etc.) without 1. paying for it and/or 2. getting permission from the owner of computer B to exchange computer A for computer B. Therefore, legal immigrants should be treated no better or worse than native-born citizens before the law, which they should obey in the same way that the native-born obey.
The New Testament further condemns racism. One example among many is, Galatians 3:28 which says, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This and other verses command us to treat all people fairly regardless of skin tone or national origin.
However, I have also noticed that a much more subtle form of racism or racial condescension is rampant in those who believe that people of certain skin tones are national origins are incapable of or exempt from obeying immigration laws BECAUSE OF their skin tone or national origin.
Based on my study of the Bible, I don't really believe in the concept of "race" because all people came from Adam and Eve. Acts 17:26-27, says, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." Instead, I believe in people groups, cultures, and nations. The concept of "races" really assumes that evolution is true and I reject evolution for many reasons.
Notice also that it was God who set the boundaries (borders) of nations, "so that they would seek Him." National boundaries or borders are not against God's will but are instead part of God's plan for salvation! Remember that the languages were separated at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) as a judgement against the sinful pride of the people and also to restrain evil. Genesis 11: 6-7 says, "The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
If God had not separated the languages, think of how much earlier in history weapons of mass destruction would have been developed and how many more people would have died in wars. In a one-language world it would have been much easier for evil people like Hitler to gain global control. Where would the refugees flee to, if evil rulers could control the whole world?
Back to my point about the racism of low expectations and condescension that subtly infects the thoughts of those who believe that certain people or groups of people are incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone, language, or national origin, I completely reject that as well. As I mentioned earlier, I have many people of different "races" who are close to me (my wife and many close personal friends) from around the globe. These people, both Christian and non-Christian all possess just as much of the Image of God (Genesis 1:26) as I do. Christ died for them and loves them just as much as me. They are every bit as intelligent, responsible, strong, diligent, and hard-working as me if not more. The idea that they are incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone, language, or national origin is in itself an insulting, arrogant, and condescending form of racism, which I completely reject!
Don't believe me? Answer this question. Which of the following sentences is racist?
1. X is incapable of obeying traffic laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
2. X is incapable of obeying standard grammar rules because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
3. X is incapable of obeying tax laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
4. X is incapable of obeying workplace policies because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
5. X is incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
The correct answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE! Condescension is not love, even if it means that people of one skin tone are given special privileges over another. Treating people with different skin tones or national origins as "pets" or "helpless victims" who need some "savior" disrespects, devalues, insults, and ultimately dehumanizes them (us). James 2:1 says, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism." The passage goes on to give the common example of the rich being favored over the poor. But, wouldn't it be just as unbiblical to favor the poor over the rich? Or one race over another in any direction? Favoritism in any direction is a form of injustice. Injustice leads to hatred and violence. Racial favoritism in any direction will ultimately lead to and encourage full blown racism.
Christ commanded us to "love our neighbors as ourselves." Therefore, we should expect others to obey immigration laws equally regardless of their skin tone or national origin. If the immigration laws are unjust or inefficient, then we should do what we can to make them better. However, we cannot just encourage law breaking out of a misguided sense of "compassion" or "social justice" etc.
4. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Probably WERE NOT Illegal Immigrants
A common abuse of Scripture in this debate is the idea that Joseph, Mary, and Joseph were definitely illegal immigrants when they went to Egypt therefore, Christians must support unlimited illegal immigration for any reason such as economics or comfort (not for a higher purpose-see above).
Matthew 2:13-15 says, "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Here are some obvious observations that I make about this passage with just a minimal of historical research:
1. Jesus may have been what the United Nations calls, an "internally displaced person." At the time of Jesus' birth Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt_(Roman_province)
Israel was also a province of the Roman Empire. Therefore, Jesus' family may have been doing nothing more than moving from one state or province to another to avoid death. In most countries around the world throughout history immigration laws rarely have any bearing or prohibition on someone moving from one state/province to another because immigration is by definition the moving form one nation to another nation.
2. Jesus may have been a refugee. If immigration laws did apply to Jesus' family's move from Israel to Egypt in order to save Jesus' from being murdered by a king who was violating God's law against murdering innocent babies (remember Exodus 1), then avoiding murder (God's law) would have superseded Egypt's immigration laws. Mark 3:4 says, "Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent."
For this reason, genuine refugees (those who are actually fleeing for their lives or safety--not just pretending to be refugees to game the system) are perfectly justified in violating or ignoring standard immigration laws (for as little time as possible) because their lives are in danger.
3. If immigration laws applied, it is highly likely that Joseph would have obeyed them by "giving to Caesar" because of Joseph's character. "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."
If Joseph was "faithful to the law" when it came to his marriage to Mary, and did not change his plans until an angel from God told him to that it was okay, then it seems highly unlikely that Joseph would suddenly break Egypt's immigration law without a good reason--God's command.
4. Even if Joseph led the family to violate the immigration law of Egypt, it was only because God specifically commanded him to do so. God's commands are superior to human laws. However, I have never heard of an illegal immigrant violating immigration laws because an angel from God appeared to them and told them to do so. Even if an angel did appear to them, it still would not prevent the nation from enforcing its laws and punishing/deporting them.
So, I hope that this discussion will help you to use the Bible to guide your thinking on controversial topics instead of your emotions, political ideology, popularity, or other influences. Ultimately God's Word is the authority. I encourage you to be a Berean and do your own research. I could be completely wrong, but the Bible is always right because it comes from a perfect God.
A Christian Apologist, Author, Missionary, Husband, and Father. Darryl has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (CA), an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University (CA), and a BA in Political Science from Truman State University (MO).