A Biblical Versus a Multi-Cultural Perspective on Illegal Immigration

Posted on November 12, 2013 by


Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16) 

Part 1*

The people of God are called to be “salt” in order to preserve the world from decay, and “light” (Mt. 5:14; Acts 13:47) in order to focus everyone’s gaze on Him who is the “Light of the world” (Jn. 8:12) as revealed in Scripture (Ps. 119:105; Jn. 1:14).  Given the enmity that the creature has toward the Creator, it ought not surprise anyone that the worldview and concomitant lifestyle of the regenerate would clash with the prevailing values and cultural mindset of a darkened world.  God fully expects us to be counter-cultural, challenging all unbelieving thought and ethical values that oppose His Word (Tit. 1:9).  With that understanding in mind, the Church in America must actively demonstrate scriptural fidelity and moral relevance by speaking out on controversial issues.  Thus, it is highly appropriate that notable evangelicals have begun to tackle illegal immigration – a topic certainly roiling Washington and dominating the headlines.  For instance, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” countenances,

 While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission… We might be natural-born Americans, but we’re all immigrants to the kingdom of God (Eph. 2:12-14).  (See Russell Moore, “Immigration and the Gospel” [Moore to the Point website], 17 June 2011).

The question that remains, however, is whether such evangelical spokespersons as Moore (or Michael Gerson and Richard Land, for that matter) are truly providing insightful commentary grounded in the Word of God that is distinct from worldly wisdom.

For instance, it seems to be a common belief among today’s leading evangelicals that some sort of amnesty is a necessary, just, and pragmatic response to the millions of undocumented immigrants.  According to Moore, “Our message to them, in every language and to every person, must be ‘Whosoever will may come.’”  Conveniently, this sentiment is also shared by the gatekeepers of conventional wisdom in this country: the secular academicians, the beltway politicians along with their corporate and agricultural lobbyists, and even fashionable pop-culture celebrities.  The motives of such special-interest groups range from the purely economic concerns (cheaper labor; more tax payers to fund “Obamacare”) to the politically and ideologically expedient (both political parties competing for the Hispanic vote).  Given this fact, Christians must be circumspect and exercise due diligence before they inveigh against their brethren whom for not protesting current immigration laws in the same manner that civil rights leaders marched and protested against Jim Crow in the 1960s.  This is where we all need to be, political correctness notwithstanding, “wise as serpents.”

 “The Least of These”

 The main arguments offered by evangelicals who support amnesty are largely pragmatic in nature, such as the impracticality of uprooting so many people let alone the immorality of deportation itself, which they assume would automatically necessitate forcibly separating children born in this country from their undocumented parents who were not.  Desiring to be “harmless as doves,” these Christians then cite biblical proof-texts they think support their compassionate position.

One significant passage often raised by immigration advocates is Christ’s final judgment in Matthew 25: “What you have done unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”  Surely, the poor, undocumented immigrant qualifies as the “least of these,” they argue.  However, it bears pointing out that in no way has Jesus in this passage identified himself with the poor in general – let alone the poor, foreign migrant worker.  In fact, the “least of these” expression refers only to the immediate disciples of Jesus and all others who follow him.  That this meaning was intended is made all the more clear throughout Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus addresses his disciples as “little ones” (10:42), “little children” (11:25; 18:3-4) or “brothers” (a reference pertaining only to those who seek his will – 12:48-49).  The true significance, then, of the Matthew 25 passage is that Christ’s judgment of the “nations” (an ethnically diverse group of individuals – not actual nation-states) will depend NOT on how these persons treated the economically destitute in general but, rather, on (1) how they treated Christ’s people (i.e. Christians) and (2) how they themselves personally responded to the Gospel.  After all, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his people continues to watch over his “sheep” – those who hear his voice and follow him (Jn. 10ff).

To their credit, the Matthew 25 passage is not the only piece of biblical evidence offered by evangelicals for amnesty; in the next installment of this article, we will critically examine certain Old Testament passages enjoining humane treatment of the “sojourner” or “stranger” living within the nation of Israel, and we will also consider the proper biblical view of the state’s role in establishing and enforcing immigration policy.

*Editor’s Note: Dr. Richard Tison is guest blogging for us on the issue of immigration. Part I is today, and parts II and II will be published on Wednesday and Thursday. Dr. Tison is an assistant professor of history at Cedarville University.

Posted in: Immigration