3 Ways the Gospels Should Inform the Immigration Debate

The issue of immigration seems to come up during every election season. When it does, the immigration stance from many Christians often seems no different than those who wouldn’t claim to follow Christ. The tragedy is that it seems like an issue that could benefit greatly from the wisdom faith could bring.

Even though they don’t specifically address immigration, here are three ways the Gospels might inform your perspective on the issue.

1. Jesus the immigrant

In Matthew 2:13–23, Jesus’ parents fled with him to Egypt, escaping the brutality of a political despot. For Jesus’ protection, God commanded Joseph take his family and flee.

This strikes me as particularly provocative. What if we can’t make generalized assumptions about the issues causing people to risk life and limb to emigrate to another country? While I can’t particularly speak toward Egypt’s immigration laws during this time, I wonder if Egyptians looked at Joseph as another Hebrew coming to take their jobs?

There has to be a myriad of nefarious problems causing people from Cuba to pay professional smugglers $5,000 to $8,000 to take a 90-mile powerboat trip fraught with potential life-risking dangers. We need to be careful not to create stereotypes that allow us to dismiss the complexities of the immigration issue.

2. The vulnerable matter

In 2009, nearly 25% of the 70.9 million children under age 17 in the United States had at least one immigrant parent. When we talk about issues surrounding immigration, we’re not just talking about able-bodied men in their thirties. We’re talking about children. We’re talking about the elderly.

Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46) makes it clear that we need to embrace policies and legislation that put “the least of these” at the center of the debate.

3. Jesus challenges xenophobia

Jesus challenged plenty of presumptions about who was and was not acceptable. Whether he was making a Roman centurion an example of faith (Luke 7:1–10), making a hated Samaritan the hero of a story (Luke 10:25–37), or sharing refreshment with a Samaritan woman (John 4:4–26), he communicated the value of all people.

The intrinsic value of all people needs to be considered when we look at this divisive issue.

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