Bible Speaks about Immigration
by Bishop Tom Brown
The Bible has much to say about immigration. The scriptures tell the story of the Israelites that immigrated to Egypt, only to find that in time they lost their status as citizens. They worked as slave laborers for the government. While the government was the beneficiary of their cheap labor, it would not offer them any real benefits that the citizens enjoyed.
God eventually delivered the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. At the time some others that were not naturally born Israelis wanted to join the new, future Israel, and they were allowed to join them as equal citizens. “And a mixed multitude went up also with them” (Exodus 12:38).
As the children of Israel made their way out of Egypt, God warned them not to mistreat the “mixed multitude” in the land, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). God reminded Israel how it felt to be aliens without rights, so God ordered them to treat them fairly and sympathetically.
When we get to the New Testament, the story about aliens and immigration does not change; only the specifics are different. In the case of the New Testament, it is the Gentiles that were aliens to the messianic Jewish Church. The New Testament tells the struggling story of how to incorporate the non-Jews into the Messianic fold. The first council of the Church dealt with this very issue, and James, the undisputed first leader of the Church, speaks, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). The Church laid out minor, yet important rules, for the Gentiles to keep in order to become part of the Messianic congregation.
Paul even writes that Gentiles, “Are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). The Gentiles, that are not natural born citizens, are made equal citizens with the Jewish believers. Put it simply: we Gentiles received amnesty and were made equal citizens of salvation along with the Jewish believers.
I’ve laid out the story of immigration, aliens and citizenship as told in the Bible, so we can come up with several principles that should guide our immigration reforms:
- Talk of securing the borders is a delay tactic, only to keep from dealing with the touchy subject of amnesty. The borders will never be one hundred percent secure, but they are basically secure, and any additional improvement, in my view, is cosmetic and minor.
- Aliens that have roots in our country, have families and stable jobs should not be forced to leave the country just to get in the back of the line to apply for citizenship. God does not want families uprooted. To uproot them from their homes and jobs is foolish, impractical and quite frankly, mean. Let them apply while residing in America.
- Provide reasonable rules that aliens must abide by in order for them to become citizens of this great land. I think rules like speaking English, having secure jobs, and abiding by the laws of the land is fair and reasonable. Perhaps a fine might be appropriate, but nothing too cumbersome.
I understand the concerns people have about aliens taking jobs from citizens, but to keep them under the radar only makes matters worse. It creates an underground, cheap labor force that will make it impossible for naturally born citizens to compete. I say, let us forgive the past and move on to create a better country. I believe the aliens of today can be the great citizens of tomorrow.