by Matt Slick
In our climate of political correctness and the left-leaning attitude of the media, Christians often face moral dilemmas. One of them is the issue of immigration. At the time of this writing (10/31/2018) there is a large caravan of thousands of people moving north from Central America through Mexico. There is another caravan heading north that is at the Guatemala, Mexico border and yet another in El Salvador heading our way.1 What should be the Christian's response to people who want a better life and try and come to America? Should we close the borders or welcome them into our nation? There is no simple answer.
As Christians, we ought to desire the safety and welfare of all people. We should be compassionate (Col. 3:12), love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18), and relieve him of his burden (Exodus 23:5). We are not to oppress the stranger (Exodus 23:9). And finally, the Old Testament speaks of loving the aliens in our land (Deut. 10:19). Okay, so this is all good. We then have to ask how do we do these things and also be wise without injuring ourselves and others without overburdening our nation? We should seek to find ways to help people make their lives better. But how far do we take this? Do we just open our borders and let anybody come in who wants to? Or, do we require that immigrants obey our laws and enter our country legally?
Biblically speaking, there are several additional issues that are relevant to this issue. Let me address them, one by one.
Submit to the governing authorities and laws
Romans 13:1–2, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."
As Christians, we are to submit to the rulership of our respective countries. We are to abide by the laws within those nations - unless those laws are against Scripture. Furthermore, nations pass laws for their own prosperity and security. Its inhabitants are obligated to submit to those laws. Therefore, we ought to require others who are not our citizens, to submit to our laws if they wish to live in our country. If I were to move to another country, I would not demand that they changed their language to suit me, and have them change their laws for my benefit, especially if I snuck in illegally. As a Christian, I'm obligated to follow the laws of the countries to which I sojourn. By analogy, when I enter someone's home, I do not break in illegally and require that they live according to my standards. I am in their home and need to submit to their rules.
Enforcement of laws sends the right message. We are a nation of laws. These laws were enacted by due process and are subject to change by additional due process. If we, as a nation, repeatedly ignore our own laws and allow illegal immigration, then...
- It sends a bad message to other nations, as well as our own population
- It encourages further lawbreaking by rewarding illegal immigration.
- It raises the concern that if our government breaks its own laws in one area, then will it also do so in others?
The right of private property and self-protection
The Bible supports the right of private property when it prohibits theft (Exodus 20:15) as well warning against coveting your neighbor's possessions (Deut. 5:21). We have the right to work and be paid for labor (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15). We have the right to do with what is ours as we see fit (Acts 5:4) as well as the right of self-protection (Luke 22:36). Though these issues may not be as directly related to all aspects of illegal immigration, they are certainly indirectly related. We must consider the possibility that some of those illegal immigrants are people who are seeking to escape the consequences of their lawbreaking in their own countries. Do we want them here? Of course, there are those who desire to come here for good reasons such as wanting to obtain a better life, escape persecution, etc. But there are also unscrupulous people who smuggle many into America for horrible reasons such as sex trafficking, child trafficking, indentured servitude, etc. Our immigration laws are there, in part, to prevent the spread of evil. Then there's the issue of unintentionally allowing extremists, i.e. Muslim terrorists, to enter into our country and to lie in wait until it is time to strike. Of course, there is no guarantee through vetting that we can prevent all undesirables from entering. But, the open borders would significantly contribute to that danger.
Now, one of the dangers of open borders where anybody and everybody can enter our country, is that it can lead to an increase in crime. This is true. The more people there are, the more crimes there will be. Nevertheless, an interesting statistic is that crime among immigrants is lower than nativeborn people2 So, even though illegal immigration can contribute to crime, statistically it is not reason enough to stop all immigration.
The Bible and Borders
It is not very common knowledge that God sets up borders between nations. Because of this, we could easily make the case that the borders that separate nations are ordained by God.
- Acts 17:26, "and He [God] made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation."
- Deut. 32:8, "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel."
Furthermore, God tells us not to move the boundary markers that establish borders.
- Deut. 19:14, "You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess."
- Deut. 27:17, "Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’"
- people escaping due process in their own country because of something they've done wrong there.
Basically, borders help keep order and they presuppose the division of properties, the right of private property as well as security, and are a passive rebuke against coveting someone else's land and resources. This latter point about coveting is important because America is an exceedingly prosperous country. Many people in the world covet our prosperity and what to have it. Some, even want to destroy it. Nevertheless, biblically speaking borders are established by God and therefore they ought to be respected. This means, along with Romans thirteen's requirement to submit to governmental authority, that immigrants must respect borders and not cross them illegally.
What about the sojourner?
What does the Bible say about the sojourner? Scripture mentions those who sojourn in the land and that they are to be caref for. Let's look at some of the Scriptures.
- Exodus 2:22, "Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner [גֵּר, ger, Strong's 1616, 92 occurrences] in a foreign land.”"
- Leviticus 25:23, "The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners [תּוֹשָׁב Strong's 8453, 14 occurrences] with Me."
- Leviticus 25:35, "Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner [תּוֹשָׁב Strong's 8453, 14 occurrences], that he may live with you."
- Deuteronomy 5:14, "but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner [גֵּר, ger, Strong's 1616, 92 occurrences] who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you."
- 1 Chronicles 29:15, “For we are sojourners [גֵּר, ger, Strong's 1616, 92 occurrences] before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope."
There are two main Hebrew words for sojourner: גֵּר, ger, Strong's 1616, which occurs 92 times and תּוֹשָׁב, toshab, Strong's 8453 which occurs 14. Basically, a sojourner is a traveler through a nation. Sometimes he stays for a long time and other times he does not. Let's consider basic dictionaries on the definition of sojourner.
- "a temporary stay" (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sojourner)
- "to stay as a temporary resident" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sojourner)
- "A"A temporary stay." (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sojourn)
So, the issue of saying that illegal immigrants are equal to sojourners does not work. Though some sojourners stayed for long periods of time in the Bible, others did not. But the overall emphasis was that they were not naturally born there and that they were, generally speaking, passing through.
Nevertheless, even if the sojourner Scriptures are used in support of immigration, there still the issues mentioned above about coming into our country legally, and not being a burden upon our economy. These are still serious considerations and we cannot ignore them.
We can't support the world
Unfortunately, in other countries there is a lot of poverty, oppression and corruption. Freedoms are often not as robust as they are here in United States. Armed conflicts among different political groups spill over into the general population, and drug cartels are sometimes rampant. People naturally want to flee such dangers and go to places where they can prosper, raise families, and be safe. This is why so many are trying to get in the United States.
However, the simple fact is we cannot support all the people in the world. The more that people come into this country illegally and are rewarded for it, the more others will want to do the same. This will put a huge financial strain on our country and could lead to economic collapse in which far more suffering will occur. Now, if people say that we are morally obligated to help others, then they must also consider the fact that those people here in the United States also need to be helped. We cannot do that by increasing the number of illegals who come into the country, give them housing, put them on welfare, provide drivers licenses for them, and have the hard-working Americans support them. Again, if this is what we do, the influx of people in this country illegally will never stop. If anything, it will increase and contribute to economic collapse
Invite them into your home
An analogy that can help us see the bigger picture more clearly is to think of inviting people into your own home. Let's say that you work hard and you have two spare bedrooms. Your refrigerator is full of food and though your budget is tight, you can pay your bills. Now let's add a small family from another country to your household who lives in one of your spare rooms. They don't speak your language. They eat your food, use your bathrooms, produce trash, and as they gradually learn English, they tell you that they want to bring more people into your home. What do you do? How long could you support them before your own economic resources are depleted and the stress and strain upon your home becomes unbearable?
Liberals are great at inviting illegals into other peoples' homes and rewarding them with citizenship, catering to their language and culture, and granting them voting privileges - which are used to keep the leftists in power. They don't really feel the effects of their decisions that impact others. After all, they are in political control and can vote themselves raises, medical benefits, protection, and other such amenities. Liberals don't feel the financial burden that a sudden onslaught of illegal immigrants brings to our economy and local regions, and how it takes away jobs from those who are legal citizens as well as puts a financial burden on infrastructure and services within our country.
Though we encourage people to come into our country from other nations, as Christians we ought to require that they do it legally. We should consider immigration as an opportunity to spread the gospel and show the love of Christ to those who are less fortunate. But on the other hand, we must be wise and recognize that, like a typical household, we can only absorb so much before collapse is imminent. Love and charity must be balanced against wisdom and common sense. Finding the balance is not so easy, but such a balance must be in place. Otherwise, eventually, everything will be lost.
- 1. https://www.foxnews.com/world/migrant-caravans-leaders-reportedly-demand-safe-and-dignified-transport-as-enthusiasm-erodes
- 2. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/15/crime-rises-among-second-generation-immigrants-as-they-assimilate/