What Would Jesus Do — About Immigration?


May 2006

Dear Ministry Partner,

What should we as Christians think about illegal immigration? We are all aware of the book In His Steps by Charles Sheldon which was the initiator of the modern WWJD — "What Would Jesus Do." This is a good movement and I am glad to see the WWJD bracelets, tee shirts, and bumper stickers in society. The challenging part of this movement is to decide what Jesus would do in some of the more complicated situations facing our society. Some situations are clear — like Jesus would not steal. But what about the current issue of illegal immigration?

In addressing illegal immigration or any other "What Would Jesus Do" situation, all Christians should agree that Jesus would honor God's Word. After all, Jesus was the one who was always responding, "It is written...". So the first place for Christians to go for guidance on this issue of illegal immigration is the Bible, and what the Bible says on the related topics.

There are many portions of God's Word that address different facets of the immigration issue. As difficult as it might be to have "tough love," the highest goal of being a Christian is not being nice to strangers, it is being obedient to the guidance and principles of God's Word. Further, even though God's Word directs us to be kind to the "alien" living among us, and to be givers, we are not directed to give other people's tax dollars, welfare funds, or jobs, to the alien. Further, if the alien has broken the law of the nation by coming illegally, the alien is supposed to be subject to the penalties of the law just like the native citizens (Exodus 12:49).

Some people question immigration laws. Even though God owns the whole earth, He delegated the earth to man and promotes the concept of private ownership of land. There were many land transactions in the Bible, and God supported the right of individuals to manage their land. God even recognized the right of the Edomites to not allow the Israelites to cross their land on the way to Canaan even when Moses asked permission (Numbers 20:17-21). The nation of America is just a collection of private land tracts, plus some acreage that we citizens own in common through what we call our federal government. We have the right (and duty) to stop people (who could be terrorists, drug smugglers, etc.) from entering our land illegally regardless of whether they come from Mexico, Canada, or through an airport or seaport.

God said, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1st Corinthians 14:40). This includes immigration. The United States accepts more immigrants than any other country of the world, and the revised immigration law of 1990 created a flexible cap of 675,000 legal immigrants per year. I have read that 2 to 3 million people have applied to immigrate from various foreign countries and are standing in a "legal line" waiting their turn. These annual quotas are to prevent us from being "overrun" and to screen the applicants to keep out murderers, terrorists, and those with readily communicable diseases. This is fully in line with Biblical principles. As a contrast, when a former American President adopted an attitude that the United States would take anyone from Cuba in 1980, the Port of Mariel boatlift occurred. It has been reported that Fidel Castro emptied his prisons and sent Cuba's worse criminals over to Miami. It is a fact that 2,746 of these Cubans were discovered to be criminals, and over 800 of them are still in U.S. prisons at American tax payer expense because Castro refuses to take them back. This is an example of things not being done decently and in order.

If borders are not secure and immigrants are not screened, any kind of person, criminal, or terrorist could come into our nation. Would Jesus be in favor of that? Plus, it is grossly unfair for law-abiding immigrant applicants to wait 3 or 4 years while illegal immigrants "cut in line" ahead of them illegally by the millions. If we feel that our nation has too many unfilled open jobs, then we can easily increase the immigration quotas to get more workers in a legal process. The applications to immigrate are available online so the whole world can fill them out. But by having our immigration occur through the legal process, each immigrant will learn our language, our laws, our history — our culture — before becoming an American citizen, and therefore he or she will be must less likely to try to change our Christian culture. In addition, legal immigrants will pay taxes which is their duty (render unto Caesar — Matthew 22:21). And we do need to preserve English as the common language lest we end up like the Tower of Babel, with the confusion and inefficiency caused by multiple languages (Genesis 11:6-7).

God instructed some of His people to be "watchmen on the walls." What were they to watch for? In historical Biblical context, it was to watch out for foreign people who would try to overrun Israel and take it over. God has always been working to preserve the righteous line, the Godly seed, and a people performing true worship of God. On the other hand, Satan has always been trying to overrun and destroy the same. America was populated as a place where true Christians (Pilgrims, Puritans, etc.) could come in order to be free to worship God in the Christian tradition. Certainly Satan would like to end that (and end the 90% of all money spent on missions which comes from America). Simple math shows that Satan could potentially do that by out-numbering us Christians with voting people who are not truly born-again. (There are many nations that have adopted laws that you cannot send funds outside of the country without government permission.)

Along these lines, God had specific things to command about the "aliens" who did come into Israel's land. First, the aliens had to be willing to embrace and assimilate into the culture of Israel. This very much particularly included the religion of Israel. God told the Israelites not to intermarry with those of foreign gods or make covenant with them (Exodus 23:24 & 32). In addition, God said the aliens had to observe the Israelite's Sabbath (Exodus 20:10) and the Israelite's day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29). In fact, God was in favor of the aliens bringing sacrifices to the temple — and if the alien tried to sacrifice to a different god, "that man must be cut off" (Leviticus 17:8-9). It was clear the immigrants had to be willing to assimilate.

God was not in favor of what is called "multi-culturalism." God wanted the Israelite's culture (religion) to be preserved by being predominant in the land, and if a small percentage of aliens were willing to live with that, they could dwell within Israel. God permitted aliens who were willing to assimilate into the culture of Israel — not to be separate from the culture of Israel, and certainly not to change the culture of Israel! The Bible says, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). God is not the author of "separate but equal." He wants the immigrants to merge or assimilate into our culture, not introduce their own.

The Bible does teach us to be kind to the alien (Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 10:17). While this was primarily addressing legal immigrants, from a Christian point of view, the present flow of illegal aliens into America is a ministry opportunity. We should not try to help them get into our country illegally, but when our paths bring us across those who appear to be immigrants, we can share the Gospel and try to convert them wherever we find them. Reaching out to them with Christianity is something we should try to do since the "mission field" has come to us. Deporting illegal immigrants is a valid responsibility of our government. But we need to have Christian compassion in figuring out how to not break up families when our government does need to deport those who are here illegally.

Last, we also need to guard our hearts from having racial hatred toward immigrants from any country. Skin color, language, or accent are not reasons to have discrimination in our hearts. There are only two "races" on the earth — the saved and the unsaved. And God so loved the unsaved, that He gave His only begotten son. So we should walk in Christ-like love toward unsaved mankind regardless of external differences. Legal immigrants are often in great need of language training, job training, benevolence giving, food donations, and of course spiritual ministry. We need to seize the opportunity to evangelize them for Christ before they change our culture away from our Christian heritage. And we need to pray for our government to have wisdom, strong leadership, and the ability to discern and meet the needs of our nation.

Preserving In God We Trust,

Dale & Judi Leander


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