There is no denying that the topic of immigration is a hot button issue in America today. It only takes a cursory glance at social media or the nightly news to realize there are a number of different viewpoints on the various aspects of the immigration debate. As Christians, we must be aware of the current cultural climate and viewpoints on this important issue, but ultimately, we must allow how we view immigrants to be informed by God’s Word first and foremost and not by the culture at large. Furthermore, we must realize that at the heart of the immigration debate are people. Real people made in God’s image who have often endured incredibly difficult lives, who in many cases, are only seeking a place to belong and thrive. In short, immigrants are important. Immigrants are people to value and love. So, what does the Scripture say regarding why we should value immigrants?
Immigrants Are Image Bearers Of God
In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This passage is the basis for the theological reality that every human being is made in God’s Image. This means that every person in this world has inherent value, dignity, and worth in God’s eyes. It should be no less in ours. Immigrants (legal or illegal) are no different. They are image-bearers and that means they are people of inestimable worth. Sadly, some Americans, and even more sadly, some confessing Christians, often attribute less value to immigrants than they do other people. However, a biblical understanding of the Image of God takes us in the opposite direction. It helps us to see that while we may have different skin colors, countries of origin, socioeconomic upbringings, and cultural differences, we are all part of the one human race, and each of us carry the mark of the Creator God. Image bearers are precious to the one whose Image they carry, and they should be precious to us as well. If you are a follower of Christ ask yourself: Do I value who God values? If the answer is ‘yes’ then every Christian should value immigrants because God values immigrants as divine Image bearers.
Immigrants Are Our Neighbors
The Bible is clear that believers are called to love their neighbors as themselves. (Lev. 19:18; Mt. 22:39) With the exception of our spouses, (if married) and our families, most often in life we don’t get to choose our neighbors. As Christians, our neighbors aren’t just the families on either side of our homes in our neighborhoods (though those are our neighbors). Rather, our neighbor is any person who crosses our path in God’s good providence. When immigrants come into our country, communities, churches, schools, etc., they become our neighbors, which means they become people we have the opportunity to love.
Regardless of where they come from, what they’ve been through, we are called to love them. At my church, we often have people walk in off the streets seeking help of some kind, whether spiritual or practical. We do our best to love each and every one of them well. Whether they are homeless, middle class, wealthy, addicts, or sober, etc., we strive to value every person God brings into our path. Loving immigrants as our neighbors isn’t contingent upon our political views, and it isn’t optional. We should thank God for bringing all kinds of people into our lives because this gives us the privilege and opportunity to build friendships and to love others well. I am reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. (Jn. 4:1-42) It would have been culturally taboo for a man in Jesus’ time to speak to an adulterous woman, who was part Jew and part Gentile, alone at a well. However, Jesus didn’t let this deter him from sharing the gospel of ‘living water’ with this woman, offering her salvation and hope in him. Jesus knew that he was called to love his neighbor, regardless of his neighbor’s skin color or social status. As Christians, we should strive to follow Jesus’ example in loving our neighbors well, whoever they may be.
Loving Immigrants Is A Gospel Principle
The primary purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to reconcile sinners to a holy God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the gospel, Jesus has made the work of redemption available for the nations. (Eph. 2:11-16) Where there were once racial and societal barriers, Jesus’ blood now tears them down. This means the gospel call is for everyone to hear. As Christians, we should be committed to taking the gospel to the nations because God loves the nations, and Christ died for them. Furthermore, we should understand that when we love immigrants well, we are modeling a gospel picture that the nations matter to Christ. As believers, we should never erect walls or barriers between people groups where Christ has torn them down.
Revelation 5:9 says that Christ “…ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” This passage shows us how much Jesus cares for the nations, as his Church is composed of people from all ethnicities and backgrounds. These great gospel truths should compel us to care well for immigrants because Jesus died for them too. If there are no barriers or walls that separate the nations from the love of Christ, then we certainly shouldn’t create barriers or walls that would prevent us from loving the nations either.
Immigrants Need The Gospel
The Church is called to preach the gospel to the nations. We see this perhaps most vividly in what is called the ‘Great Commission’ in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Oftentimes, this manifests itself in our local churches sponsoring and supporting international missionaries who preach the gospel in foreign countries, or through short-term mission trips to other countries that church members participate in. These are important ministries that help to accomplish the Great Commission. However, many American Christians may not realize that in our immigrant neighbors, God has brought the nations to our doorstep. This is a wonderful thing! Many immigrants arrive in America having fled countries that are closed to the gospel and where Christians are persecuted for their faith. In God’s providence, he often brings people from these countries to America, where the Church has the opportunity to not ignore or shun these individuals, but to share the life-giving message of the gospel with their immigrant neighbors. American Christians should thank God that we have the opportunity to share the hope of the gospel with immigrants who have come to our country.
How do you view immigrants? As Christians, we must view immigrants as God views them. As dignified, valuable, human beings made in God’s image. As neighbors that we are called to love just as much as we love those who were born in this country. As those who Christ died for, and as those who God, in His loving providence, has brought into the neighborhoods where our churches are, the neighborhoods where we live so that we might faithfully share the hope of the gospel with them. Do you view immigrants as God does today?
By Chris Dilley
Associate Pastor, Education