By Rondell Treviño
Evangelical Immigration Table
As Christians, we know the Bible is the breathed out Word of God (II Timothy 3:16), and our blueprint on how to morally live vertically in relationship to God and horizontally in relationship to others in the world. We know God Himself has graciously given us the Bible, comprised of 66 books filled with more than 750,000 inspired and relevant words so we might be informed on a plethora of topics, one being immigration.
Therefore, when it comes to the hot topic of immigration in the United States, which has dominated a huge portion of this election season, one of the healthiest things we can do as Christians is simply open up the Bible and see what God has to say about it. Now, although we have the right to have different perspectives on immigration politically and economically, we must seek to have a biblical perspective, first.
However, many Christians fail to actually put this into practice. According to Lifeway Research 2015, only 12 percent of Christians primarily view immigration from the Bible. In other words, 88 percent of Christians primarily view immigration from something other than the Bible such as politics, economics, legality, and fear. To view immigration from any of these perspectives before a biblical perspective, has the potential to put a wall of hostility, that Jesus Himself destroyed on the cross, between Christians and immigrants, thus causing Christians to miss the beautiful opportunity of loving and caring for them.
So what does the Bible say about immigration?
Image of God
In Genesis 1:26-28, God speaks ontologically and functionally about humans. Ontologically, God says every human is made in His image — including immigrants, legal and illegal. This means immigrants have infinite value in God’s sight. He views them with delight and joy.
Functionally, God’s purpose for His image bearers — including immigrants, is to fill and subdue the earth, rule, create, and have dominion. We have seen this played out with immigrants who have founded iconic companies in the United States such as Google, AT&T, eBay, RadioShack, and Kohl’s to name a few.
The ontological and functional truths found in Genesis 1:26-28 show us that immigration is first and foremost about human beings with a heart, soul, mind, and emotions who have tremendous potential before it is about politics, economics, legality, and fear. And as Christians we should understand that if immigrants have infinite value and potential in God’s sight, then immigrants should have infinite value and potential in our sight as well.
Since immigrants are made in the image of God, this should therefore compel us to see immigration as a missional opportunity. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Usually the first thing that pops out to us here is the word go coupled with the words every nation, compelling us to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to a foreign country, which is great and needed. However, in the original language, Jesus’ command includes the words “Make disciples.” Therefore, not only should we be compelled to go on missions trips to make disciples in other countries, but we should also be compelled to make disciples here in the United States. Making disciples consists of global and local missions. And in Tennessee alone, there are 304,801 immigrants of the 50 million total immigrants in the United States — 11 million being undocumented. In other words, we have a profound opportunity as Christians in Tennessee to obey Jesus’ command and make disciples of immigrants in the cities, neighborhoods, and communities we live in. In fact, we have 304,801 opportunities to do so.
For Christians, viewing immigration from a biblical perspective before a political, economic, legal, and fearful perspective is of utmost importance because the Bible — God’s very breathed out words, is our blueprint on how to live in the world. The Bible clearly shows us that immigrants, legal and illegal, are made in the image of God with tremendous potential, which should therefore compel us to view immigration as a missional opportunity to make disciples of all nations right where we live. Only by viewing immigration from the Bible, first, will the church be the hands and feet of Jesus it’s called to be by loving and caring for immigrants — helping the great state of Tennessee look more like the kingdom of God.