[Editor’s note: To readers who are not from the United States, please forgive the fact that this question and answer are somewhat between insiders to the US on this question. Hopefully, the principles will apply everywhere]
I have a question as immigration debates are heating up in America. Normally, I wouldn’t care as much. However, there was recent video of a politician quoting Matthew 25 as a reason Christians should promote the entrance of immigrants coming illegally according to our nation’s current policies. I understand that Matthew 25 talks about caring for those in need. I also understand there are several OT scriptures that encourage hospitality towards foreigners (Deuteronomy 14:29 among others).My question is: Does this scripture come with any contingencies (immigrants being violent, not willing to work and be paid by federal programs, etc.)? I agree that taking care of people is important, however I disagree with the notion that we should be hospitable to immigrants no matter what their behavior might be. However, I can’t seem to reconcile my reasoning scripturally. I’m for whatever the truth is. Thanks in advance.
There is an almost infinite number of passages from Scripture which could be used to show that believers ought to care for the alien and for outsiders in general. Practically the whole book of Luke can be used as evidence for this proposition! The Pentateuch is loaded with passages in which God’s people are told to accept, care for and treat honorably aliens among them. The commentator chose Matthew 25:31-46 in which we are told that, as we treat the stranger, so we have treated God. If we, as American (or other nationality) Christians are unloving and unaccepting to outsiders, including immigrants, then we are not obeying Jesus.
However, these multiple passages, including Deuteronomy 14:29 and Matthew 25:31-46, do not deal with the question of whether these strangers/immigrants are in fact dangerous or evil people, or whether they have broken the law in coming here or whether they are here to take advantage of the system. We will have to use other Christian principles to deal with these questions. Here is what I can say. Whether we agree with them coming here and whether we believe that illegal aliens ought to be sent back for legal reasons, what we certainly need to do is show compassion to them. Even if we agree, in principle, that illegal aliens ought to be deported, it is not our job to deport them. It is our job to love them, to comfort them and to show compassion to them as long as they are here. By the way, this even includes if their motivations are not ideal.
I believe that sincere and faithful Christians will honestly differ about whether believers ought to sanction illegal aliens–whether we ought to protect them from deportation. I would say that using Matthew 25 as grounds for proving that Christians ought to help immigrants to avoid the law is grey area at best.
My best answer for this came, not from me, but from a friend Randy Haragan who gave a sermon several years ago. He had always been a bit of a hard-core on believing that illegals should be deported (“What part of the word illegal do you not get?”) He had also supported his local church’s position that if we convert an illegal we need to get them to commit before baptism to return to Mexico or wherever they came from. Then Randy had an opportunity to interact directly with a young woman who was here illegally and was in a really rough spot in her life. He came to have much compassion for this unfortunate young woman. He shared with the church that he had a bit of a revelation on this issue. The chief Christian thing to do in this case is not to take a political stand one way or another (although he did change his political stand as a result of his experience) but that our chief thought should be this: How can we show love and compassion to these people who are here under such desperate circumstances? Our response to the politics is not the important thing. The important thing is to be like Jesus.
So, here is my question to your question: Is this principally a legal question–a question about the truth with regard to this issue, or is this principally a question of social justice and how Jesus would treat such a person? I believe that Jesus would comfort such a person, that he would seek to find shelter and even money to help their situation. I cannot say for sure whether he would help to keep them out of the hands of those who would deport them. I tend to think that he might do that, to be honest. Even if he did not agree with the commentator you mention above on legal grounds, I think that Jesus would totally agree with the apparent compassion which underlies the comment made by this guy. What Jesus would be repulsed by totally (even if he agreed with them on the “law”) is the horrible attitude of Trump and his supporters in this whole immigration debate. It is the hard-heartedness and the mean-spiritedness, not the legal stand that Jesus would very strongly condemn. I believe that John 8:1-11 will back up my claim.
Here is my conclusion: No, Christians are not required in every case, to “accept” the activities of those who are not here legally. For example, it is acceptable for a Christian to support politically the idea of sending illegals who commit felonies here back to their countries, or perhaps even for those who come here simply to abuse our generosity. But to focus on this is to miss the mark. Christians ought to strongly support programs to show compassion to aliens of all sorts–legal or illegal–independent of their legal stance. Also, Christians ought, in general, to support more open borders rather than more closed borders as a means for our country to show compassion to the less fortunate and to those whose lives are threatened in other countries in which citizens do not have the advantages we have. Especially, we ought to have open arms to those who come here as refugees from situations in which their lives are threatened. Economic refugees: maybe. Refugees fleeing warfare, sexual abuse, fear of death from dictators and the like, definitely yes!