DEUTERONOMY 24:17-22: “You are not to twist justice for an outsider or orphan, and you are not to take as collateral a widow’s clothing. But you are to remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and ADONAI your God redeemed you from there. Therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you are not to turn back to get it. It is for the outsider, for the orphan and for the widow—in order that ADONAI your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you are not to search through the branches afterward. It is for the outsider, for the orphan and for the widow. When you harvest your vineyard, you are not to pick over it afterward. It is for the outsider, for the orphan and for the widow. You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” TLV
OBSERVATION: How should a Christian view illegal immigration and the poor? This is a question that is not as easy to answer as it appears. On one hand there is the issue of the rule of law. On the other there is the call to have compassion for the outsider (foreigner) and the poor. As the law would view a man stealing a loaf of bread in order to survive differently from a man stealing a diamond bracelet, so the law needs to have a balance of justice and compassion when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration.
What was the basis for Israel’s call to compassion from the Lord? It was their experience of slavery in Egypt.
- “You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.”
For over 400 years the Children of Israel were slaves. If anyone knew the plight of the outsider it was them. The United States is a nation of immigrants that came from other nations. We too should remember our roots when it comes to the issue of immigration and helping the outcast and the poor.
Yet, some will immediately object – “We need to be a nation of laws!” It is not lawful for people to simply pour over our borders while others waiting legally in line for years to be a citizen. How is a Christian to balance these two points? There are two principles at work in this issue. There is the governing of a nation, and there is the call of God’s people. Many times these two things seemed to be opposed, and yet they are not always in contradiction.
There is no contradiction for a Christian to support legal immigration and the securing of our national borders. In fact, God’s people built a wall around the city of Jerusalem, and guards were placed at its gates. It is neither unloving nor unlawful for a nation to secure its border for the security of its people. In fact, it is imperative to do so. Those who cry for open borders, simply under the guise of compassion, are really enabling lawlessness and also endangering their fellow man.
However, how we treat those who are outsiders, including the illegal immigrant and the poor in this country, is a completely different issue. The state has a responsibility to address all people who are criminals, including illegal immigrants. The believer has a responsibility to call and show compassion for those who are in need and are living among us. This does not simply include the Dreamers, this includes all “outsiders” whose only crime was trying to find a better life for their family.
As you can see, there is a tension between these two points. It is rare that one takes both positions at the same time. We always tend to swing to extremes in our position. Yet, I believe a Christian can confidently support the position of securing our borders, while also calling for compassion for those illegal immigrants and the poor who live among us. This is not simply an option for the believer, it is the heart of the Father!
All my adult life I have worked with Hispanics that have come to America to find a better life. I am not speaking of the criminal element. I am speaking of desperate families who yearned for a better life for their children. I know that some came across the border illegally. Yet, I have witnessed in this group a sincerity, work ethic, and spirit of gratitude that I have not found in most Americans. This does not excuse the fact that they broke the law in crossing the border illegally, it simply puts it in perspective. We must never govern simply by the rule of law and forget the spirit of the law, and the ultimate law of love.
The Children of Israel found themselves slaves in a foreign land for over 400 years. God calls them to remember this and to use it as a guiding principle for how they deal with the poor, the widow, and the outsider. I think we should do the same. I pray that our nation will have the ability of doing two things simultaneously, securing our borders and showing compassion to the outsider. May the church take the lead in how it lives its life in the world.
Lord, give us a heart of compassion to the poor, the outsiders, and the illegal immigrant who sought a better life for their families and children.
In Jesus Name!