Building the Wall of Truth: A Christian Response to Immigration (Pt. 1)

 (Image: Kazuend)

(Image: Kazuend)

Donald Trump's presidency has given me more material in less than two weeks than I care for.  I've got a job outside of this blog, man! I can't be writing for this thing everyday!

But that's what I've been doing since last Saturday evening, when I first learned of President Trump’s executive order to halt travel to America from 7 (out of 40+) Muslim-majority countries - aka "Muslim ban" - aka "ISIS ban" - aka "It's not a ban, it's a suspension of Visas for those who are from 7 Muslim-majority countries due to those nations’ ties with ISIS."

Look. I don't really know what to call it. I tried to make sense of it on Facebook, but that only led to arguments, and then I realized I didn’t have all of the facts. And then God told me to sit this one out and only speak on what I know.

But it hasn't stopped the Internet from boldly calling things the way they see it - whether true or false - whether fact or an "alternative fact." 

Among these claims have been assertions about how Jesus and Christians should handle the fall out - from where we should stand on immigration in general to how we should feel about the refugee crisis in particular. I created a list of the top 5 most frequent claims I encountered and felt compelled to address them all. For the sake of length, I have divided this post into two parts. (Psssttt...here's Part 2.)

Let’s review the first two claims, shall we?

Claim: Christians are supposed love immigrants! 

 (Image: Natish Meena)

(Image: Natish Meena)

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
— Leviticus 19:33-34

Yes! There is truth in this statement. Christians should certainly love immigrants. We're called to love everyone - our neighbor, one another, our enemies - you name it! We know that sharing this love demonstrates the love of God and we don't mind doing it.

Many tend to share Leviticus 19:33-34 to kindly remind us of the love we are to show foreigners who dwell among us - just in case we forget. But what they tend to forget is that the Bible has 65 more books, 1187 more chapters, and 31,100 more verses that offer the full context for the two verses they chose to make their case. 

Just to put things into perspective, it helps if most knew the ENTIRE point of the Bible is to serve as a love letter from God to mankind about how much He loves us and desires that we return to Him in Christ Jesus. In this letter, God extends His hand and shows us that He is no respecter of persons, but freely welcomes from every nation those who willingly desire to serve Him. Again, from every nation - that includes various races, languages, accents, skin tones, hair textures, genders - all of that (Acts 10:34-35). God is NOT racist or sexist. Couldn't be. HE created all races and BOTH sexes (As in TWO!). His love for the WORLD is the entire reason He sent Christ to offer us forgiveness for our sins (John 3:16). It is why Christians are to take the Gospel to the NATIONS (Matthew 28:19-20). By the time this is all over, God's Holy people will be a multi-national coalition of Believers.

He began this work with the Hebrew/Jewish people through Abraham, but always had Gentiles in the plan (Galatians 3:8). So as the Gentiles (foreigners) are called, and as the Jews convert through Christ, we become one Body of Believers under the same God in Jesus Christ (John 10:16). We become a Holy nation by faith. As such, we are to treat one another the same and we're all promised the same inheritance - no favorites (Galatians 3:28; 1 Peter 2:9).

And now, back to the "foreigner".

Anyone not of the nation of Israel was a "foreigner". But, again, the Jews were to indeed LOVE and embrace them as their own people. The foreigner was even allotted an inheritance from the tribe in which they dwelled (Ezekiel 47:22-23). They were entitled to all of the rights and privileges of a native of Israel. God wanted to hook them up just like natural-born citizen.

But guess what was expected of the foreigner?

Guess?

Just take a wild guess? (I’ll wait.)

Okay, I’ll tell yoooooou!!!! (*sings in Oprah voice*)

The foreigner was expected to...wait for it...

  • Hold the same faith in God (through the promise of Christ, as He was revealed in the OT)
  • Assimilate to the culture and customs of the people
  • Obey the Law of the nation. 
  • Be subject to all judgments of said Law (Numbers 15:15)

While the foreigner's compliance with these requirements had to be of their own willingness, those were the rules. There were benefits for following them and there were consequences for breaking them. 

As awesome as Leviticus 19:33-34 is to see anytime the immigration debate comes up, many totally miss the integrity of its context. Many never question why God makes the commandments He does. They merely cherry-pick His word as it suits them. As such, they don't grasp the implications that come with the cherry picked. For those these scriptures to fully apply to America’s immigration debate or policy, it means those who come to America should also be expected to assimilate, obey all laws, and come to a saving faith in God through Jesus Christ.  Further, ironically, if one believes in the authority of this Levitical verse in American politics, one should also honor the authority of Leviticus 18:22 (It still stands under Christ).

So, Internet, do y'all want to live by the Constitution or the Bible? Because last month the Kim Burrell controversy had many of you calling the Bible "irrelevant" and even "corrupt". But if we want to go there, I knows-a-PLENTY of Christians who would LOVE IT if we could make God's Word the law of the land.

Claim: Jesus was a Refugee.

 (Image: Al Sharpton)

(Image: Al Sharpton)

Saw this one come up a lot. I noted that even Al Sharpton made this claim. But it is incorrect. I know it sounds like it could be true, but it's like, so far from correct.  If you don't believe me, the Bible exists and all are welcomed to read it. If you're not familiar with the details of the story of Jesus's birth, all you've gotta do is reread the story and voila - you've discovered that Twitter and Mr. Sharpton's claim is merely an "alternative fact".

Let's consider the legal definition of what makes one a "refugee" shall we?

According to Merriam Webster, a refugee is "an individual seeking refuge or asylum; especially: an individual who has left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution (as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion)."

Now, let's take this definition and the Scriptures to answer the following questions:

Did Jesus' parents flee their native country?

No. They fled from Bethlehem, Judea, which is where Mary and Joseph willingly traveled (from Nazareth, Israel) to pay their taxes. Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, and they remained there until God told them to go to Egypt (Matthew 2). Oh! And in the midst of all of this this, they even traveled to Jerusalem to dedicate Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:1-24).

Was the nation they fled actively at war, in conflict or was there any active violence in that land AT THE TIME they fled?

No. There was no immediate danger for Mary, Joseph or Jesus at the time God's angel told them to go the Egypt. BUT, God's angel DID tell them that King Herod would (future tense) seek to kill Jesus (as Herod feared Jesus would grow up to threaten his crown). King Herod ordered a massacre on little boys ages 2 and younger AFTER Mary and Joseph had already left Bethlehem.

Did they seek asylum or government protection?

Nope. Next question. 

Did they permanently resettle?

Nope. They were living in Egypt until King Herod died in Bethlehem. After that time, an angel of God told them that they could leave Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).

Were they unable to return to the nation from which they fled? (And was said nation their native country?)

No. They did not return to Bethlehem (Judea), but that wasn't their home to begin with. Mary and Joseph were from Galilee of Nazareth, Israel and freely returned to Galilee of Nazareth, Israel (Matthew 2:19-22). Jesus was a Child during all of this so, of course, He had to go where ever Mary and Joseph went. 

Who offered them aid? 

The Bible does not indicate that Mary and Joseph required any financial or housing assistance or special government aid during their journeys. Even when Jesus was born and laid in a manger, it wasn't because Joseph and Mary had no money. There simply wasn't any room at the inn (Luke 2:7). But God was with them every step of the way - warning them in advance of the danger to come and telling them where to go and when to leave. They were not from a war-torn country and they were free to return home.

This concludes Part 1. If you enjoyed reading it, wait'll ya get a load of Part 2!

~ @Veritéetfeu