What does the Bible say about immigration?

By February 7, 2019
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International (MNN) – Sometimes the political noise surrounding an issue becomes so loud that we pick a side without considering what the Bible has to say. It’s true, the Bible doesn’t directly address every single scenario we face today. But David Montgomery, a speaker recently hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, believes immigration is one issue that is most definitely addressed in the Bible.

The Bible and Immigration

Montgomery wants to remind college and university students of what the Bible says about the movement of people because, “Obviously that’s a big issue in Europe at the moment, as well as worldwide. So I’ve essentially been looking at what the biblical material has to say about how we are to treat those who are refugees, migrants, immigrants who are different than us.”

But what he has to say is good for everyone to hear, not just college students.

“There are lots of arguments put forward as to why we should not have so many immigrants in our country and why we have to look after ourselves, etc. So I want to go a step back and say, well what does the Bible actually say? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus above all else?”

Montgomery’s main reason for covering this topic is to inspire students who are involved in working with people from other countries. He wants to remind them of the spiritual reason they are doing what they are doing– to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Right now, in North America and in Europe, there is a strong nationalist sentiment: our country comes first. Montgomery urges Christians to consider what God would say about that before hopping on that train.

“The Bible says a lot about looking after the migrant and the sojourner and the displaced refugee. I don’t find anything in the Bible about border control. Now that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be some things there in the issues of justice for all—for all our citizens. But that’s pretty far down the list compared to the overwhelming commands in Scripture to look after the sojourner.”

From the Old Testament to the New, we see how much God cares about the foreigner. He commands the Israelites over and over again to treat the sojourner as a member of their nation. In Matthew 25, Jesus urges His listeners to welcome the stranger like they would Christ Himself. These are just a few of the many examples.

Immigration and the Kingdom of God

Montgomery points out that even using the phrase “our country,” is not biblical. It’s failing to recognize that ultimately, all that we have is God’s, and we are His stewards.

One way we can tell if we’re responding to a situation biblically is to consider where we have set our hope and our heart. Is it in God’s plan, or our ability to prosper here on earth?

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(Image courtesy of Kyle Glenn via Unsplash)

“We will necessarily have a very different outlook on what is good for our country than those for whom this world with its economics and its standards of living is all that there is. That’s not our bottom line. Our bottom line is for justice and fairness and Kingdom of God values. If it is just about this world and just about our standard of living, then we decide everything on economics.”

Instead of going with political or cultural trends, Montgomery says our job is to help those in peril who don’t have a voice, don’t have a home, and are possibly outrunning persecution or other danger. When we stop viewing the countries we live in as possessions and instead view them as a gift from God, meant to build His Kingdom, everything changes. We become generous.

“We have space in our countries. I do feel sorry for places like Malta and areas of Greece where they are overwhelmed because they don’t have the space. And one of the reasons they’re so overwhelmed is that they’re at the frontline and few other countries that have much more space are not willing to open their borders.”

Of course, there needs to be security screenings and rules surrounding how people come into different countries.  Laws need to be upheld. But, Montgomery says it should not be at the cost of basic human rights. Nor do we need to be worried that immigrants are going to negatively impact society.

Many times, people grab on to stereotypes surrounding immigrants. They point to the worst stories that, while rare and extreme, get the most press and attention. But these exceptions do not give an accurate depiction of what strangers from a foreign land have to offer.

“The reality is that many immigrants actually contribute much more to our economy and to the richness and diversity of our country than many of our own citizens.”

Not only do people from other countries bring this richness and diversity, but they also help strengthen our churches. And, the movement of people allows for the spreading of the Gospel.

Montgomery gives the example of a church from his homeland in Ireland. He says just a few years ago when he visited, there were only eight or nine people attending. But the last time he visited, it was a thriving church of 60 or 70 people, representing 20 different nations.

Learn More

If you want to learn more on this topic, Montgomery suggests reading material from the Jubilee Centre, or the Gospel Coalition. There are many other great resources out there about biblically responding to immigration, you just have to get started!

“Some of the things they point out are, get your facts straight. Don’t just listen to the latest popular idea of what’s happening. Talk to people on the frontline.”

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(Photo by Alvin Engler via Unsplash)

There are many ways we can respond to immigration, refugee resettlement, and asylum seekers. First of all, pray for the workers on the front lines. Consider helping short term in refugee camps or refugee resettlement programs.

Specifically in camps, Montgomery says, “It might just be hands-on help, distributing water. Teaching kids—education is a big issue in those camps because those kids are losing out on years of education. So, simple stuff like that about makeshift classrooms. Just distributing much-needed resources.

“And then at home. It might just be a case of crossing the street. I mean, that’s essentially what it is. There’s bound to be somebody in your locality who does not come from the country you’re living in and who has settled. Find out about their story. Ask ‘Why did you come here? How welcoming have you found our country? What would have been easier for you?’ And start looking at them as people rather than as a problem.”

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