I’m not usually one to get all political. I’m conservative, yes, but I see flaws and failings in that mindset as well as those who are more liberal. I don’t think anyone has all the right answers – except for God of course. I’ve been deeply interested in the whole refugee/migrant issue and I’ve seen a lot of misinformation, twisted information, and everybody and anybody using the Bible to back up their own political beliefs. I’ve been attacked because of conservative posts I’ve shared on Facebook from people who champion tolerance. This is a deeply divisive topic and I think both sides have merit. Both sides – those who are for open borders and those who are for the sovereignty and protection of our country – can use the Bible to back up their cause. What we really suck at as a country is balance.
What I’ve noticed among those using the Bible to shore up their positions is a failure to consider the context of the verses they’re using. They take bits and pieces of what God has said and they use them for their own purposes. Take this verse for example:
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Alright, unpacking these verses: the “you” is not actually you. God was talking to the Israelite nation, freshly out of Egypt. I think this verse clearly shows that God has a soft spot for foreigners, because His beloved people were foreigners who were mistreated when they were in Egypt. But I’ve never been a foreigner in Egypt. I’ve never been a refugee. But because I am a follower of God, and God has compassion for foreigners, that means that my takeaway from this verse is that I need to have compassion for foreigners who live in my area. I am probably more privileged than most in that regard because of my work in the library. I see them. I get to help them. And they come to me for help, I don’t have to go looking for them. For the rest of you Christians reading this you’re probably going to have to put in more effort than I do to live this verse out, if you’re serious about following God.
So, does that mean that we welcome anybody and everybody into our country? I think there’s a big difference that we overlook in our cherry-picking of Bible verses: who is it talking to? We can throw Bible verses out all day long and nobody really has to listen because we’re not really addressing anybody. We want our government to change; newsflash: the Bible usually isn’t talking to a government, it’s talking to people. Individuals. You and me. We’re the ones who need to be doing what the Bible tells us to do and shockingly enough, when we (you and I) do this, we can change the world. Yes, the Bible does have cautions for governments, like this verse I read this morning:
Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives
or fall among the slain. (Isaiah 10:1-3)
Again, not specifically to President Trump, this one was for the leaders of Israel who were oppressing their own people and it doesn’t even mention foreigners. It’s still a good warning for our leaders. But if we Christians, those of us who claim to love God and follow His commands, aren’t really doing what God has called us to do, how could we expect those who don’t know Him to do the same? We have no room for judgement and condemnation, for we ourselves are guilty. Yes, we need laws to maintain order and preserve peace. I think it’s pretty obvious that the laws we have are flawed, as there is little peace among Americans today. The laws do need to be fixed.
Now, for the other side. God does make a distinction between His people, the Israelites, and foreigners – even sympathetic ones who like the Israelites. Regarding the Passover (the Israelites’ most sacred festival) He said:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:
“No foreigner may eat it. … A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.” (Exodus 12:43-49)
A foreigner couldn’t get the benefits and blessings of celebrating this sacred meal with the Israelites unless he became like them. He had to have completely assimilated into the culture (and for them that included the religion).
God expected the foreigner to work to provide for themselves:
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19-21)
He didn’t tell the Israelites “Get everything you can off your fields and olive trees and then drop off some of the harvest you’ve worked so hard for at the front door of the foreigner.” He told them to allow the foreigner the dignity and satisfaction of working for their own food.
God also made a distinction between His people and foreigners regarding their worship of Him:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites.” (Ezekiel 44:9)
Harsh, I agree. Which is why I am so thankful that the restrictions God placed on accessing Him (to emphasize His holiness) were fulfilled and satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)
Peter reminds us that if we are looking forward to our heavenly home, we are all foreigners:
“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17)
So why does God care about the foreigner so much (and therefore we should too)? Solomon gave us the answer:
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you…” (1 Kings 8:41-43)
God’s overarching desire is that all people know Him. He has ordered us to have compassion and show His love to everyone so that by our witness they will come to know Him. Our focus should be on that mission, not on being right or coercing people to see life from our point of view. We should ask ourselves before we share that video or comment on someone’s post we don’t agree with “is this helping people to know Him better?” Our leaders will have to give an account for what they did or didn’t do, and so will you and I.
Conclusions: Employ care when using the Bible to back up your own position. Maybe consider looking to the Bible to form your opinion, rather than picking certain verses to suit your own agenda. Our necessary laws to maintain order and preserve justice need to tempered with compassion and mercy. However I don’t expect a secular government to heed the warnings in the Bible. Why would it? Therefore, it is up to the followers of Christ to set the example and transform the world by actually doing what God has called them to do.
If you want to do something, here are some ways to get involved:
A good reminder:
Other thoughts about this topic: