Recently an evangelical Christian friend of mine organized a demonstration against U.S. immigration policies at one of the nation’s largest airports. This certainly caught my attention. None of us have escaped the onslaught of opinion, information and misinformation relative to the recent immigration restrictions placed on citizens from seven foreign countries. The question has been raised, “How dare we restrict immigration?” The accusation has been leveled that this is un-American. Others would seem to imply that it is un-Christian. It is my desire to consider this current debate from a biblical perspective.
The Bible speaks to the treatment of immigrants.
In the Old Testament the Israelites were instructed to treat the foreigners among them fairly and with respect. Exodus 22:21 says, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt (NIV).” Israel is reminded that they were an immigrant people in Egypt. They were mistreated and enslaved therefore they should recall the injustices and not repeat them in their treatment of others.
This instruction makes it clear that there was the expectation and reality that people of other national origins would be among God’s people as both visitors and residents.
I believe that today a fair and just treatment of immigrants would include:
A reasonable yet rigorous path to citizenship.
Equality in pay for equal work.
Fair treatment under the law
The ability to work to earn one’s way in life.
The freedom of religious belief and practice.
I believe the fair and just treatment of immigrants would not include:
Automatic access to the health care system provided for citizens
Access to the retirement and insurance system set up for citizens
The unrestricted exercise of the constitutional rights available to citizens
Access to the welfare system that is provided for citizens
The Bible’s teaching on nations.
The Bible teaches that nations exist as a part of a blessing and a curse. This is first observed in Genesis 11 where God divided the earth’s inhabitants by language that eventually reflected itself in national groups. This judgment of languages and scattering was in response to man’s tower of Babel. Most commentators feel this was a reflection of man’s arrogant self centered religious ambitions.
Acts 17:26 states that God established borders between nations. The punishment was intended to establish boundaries that would impede unification that could express itself in evil. The ultimate evil would be related to what the tower represented in a one world religion. It represented human efforts and achievement apart from God and His grace.
“So what does this have to do with immigration rights in the real world today?”
It seems that the perceived human right to immigrate is often based on the idea that we are all part of one big world. We are all a part of the one human race. These are truths, but I have two concerns.
First, these truths can endorse globalist thinking that denies the existence of nations with physical and legal boundaries that define nations. Anti-national thinking or globalism is spoken of as part of the ideological underpinning of the antichrist of the last days. This globalist thinking will produce a repressive authoritarian dictatorial government. It will be headed by a man who will proclaim himself to be God (II Thess 2:3-4). He will be resisted but the effect of his quest for power will be enormous. Christians will be persecuted. Jews will be persecuted. Anyone who resists his demands for a one world government (Rev. 13:15 and 13:17) will suffer by not being allowed to buy or sell and will be killed (Rev. 13).
It is disconcerting when internationalism and globalism are utilized to argue that nations owe the right to immigrate to anyone who wants to enter any country.
My second concern is the denial of the purpose of government and nations. Government according to Romans 13 exists to reward good and punish evil. Romans 13:3 says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” This suggests not only a legal code but also a definite institution which in the real world has land and boundaries and a people. The authority and responsibility of the state to protect its citizens is further suggested by the phrase “they bear not the sword for nothing” in the next verse.
Government exists to protect and provide for the common good of the people under its care. The American founding fathers spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore necessary that government reflect the values of a given society in a real place and protect its people from those who would harm its citizens. Citizens can be harmed by physical violence. Those who would do harm to others for whatever reason must be prevented from their evil intention by denying them entry. Citizens can be harmed by the destruction of the social structure that allows for people to provide for themselves through work that produces the goods and resources necessary to life. This can happen if too many people are allowed into a country that cannot contribute to the common good.
A country can be undermined by taking in people who do not share the basic values of the country. These people may be good in many senses, however if they are permitted in, it can lead to turmoil and chaos. Revolutions and the horrors of such are fostered by divergent ideologies. History is full of these kinds of conflicts. It has often been said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This is not a true statement. Words and the ideologies they communicate can lead to disaster. It is the responsibility of government to manage its immigration practices so as to mitigate against the destruction and heartache that can ensue.
In the light of the government’s responsibility it must be clearly seen that one does not have the right to go anywhere they want and the government that fails to stand against the demands from within or without ceases to perform its function.
The humanitarian need is an important issue.
A government should intervene to help those who are defenseless and do good to all. Galatians 6:10 says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...” This is a biblical injunction given to individuals and therefore has some justifiable application in the arena of government. A caring practical response would incorporate seeking to meet basic life needs of food, shelter, and the protection from oppression. This is right in the light of human compassion. It is also right in that it may stay the growth of evil. It is important and in the best interest of a government and its citizens to prevent unrest and warfare lest we find ourselves drawn into chaos and conflict. However, there are limits to what a country can do without destroying itself.
It is my opinion, based on the biblical mandate derived from the purpose of government to protect its citizens, that there must be regulations, controls and even the restriction of immigration at times. For a government to fail in this is a major mistake and puts the citizens and nation at risk of destruction. Immigration is not a right. It is a privilege that can be granted or denied. This is biblical, balanced, and Christian. We must recognize that God has blessed the United States. It is important to recognize that we as a nation have given greatly to our fellow man, perhaps more than any other nation in the history of mankind. It is also important to recognize that we are a nation of immigrants that has welcomed people from around the world since our beginning. For us to continue to enjoy God’s blessing and be able to share that blessing, we must stand against those who do not share our values and foundational beliefs. We must not allow those who would harm and destroy to enter our country. We must also manage our immigration policy so that we can assimilate and bless new potential productive citizens.
May God in His grace bless the United States of America that we might be a blessing to all.
Dr. Dan Iles is the Chairman of the Department of Christian Ministries at Shasta Bible College and Graduate School in Redding, CA. He also serves as the Director of Educational Development for Indigenous Ministries International of Colorado Springs, CO. Dr. Iles has served as a local church pastor, a law enforcement chaplain, and a member of many boards for over 45 years. Dr. Iles has traveled and ministered widely both nationally and internationally. He earned his undergraduate degree from Southeastern Bible College, a ThM from Dallas Seminary and a DMin from Western Seminary, Portland.