How Should Christians Approach Immigration? {Immigration Series}

 

This topic. Oh, I could write and talk for ages about it. I decided to break it down into chunks because I suspect it will be easier for all of us to process that way. If this is a topic that you don’t know much about, or if your eyes glaze over at the mention of the word “politics,” stay with me! Politics used to bore me to tears, so I promise to try to keep it interesting and understandable. For those who have followed this topic and know a bit about it, I hope you’ll hang around as well.

 I hope you’ll follow along in this series about immigration and let me know your thoughts along the way—even if you don’t agree! I’m open to dialogue and hope we can all approach this topic together and with an open mind. I am writing from a Christian perspective, but I suspect that there will be plenty to digest for any audience. Welcome.

 

 

Before I jump into all the hotly debated topics and politics and all of that stuff that “gets our blood boiling,” I think it’s important to step back for a minute and consider the lens we’re using to view the topic of immigration. Do we think about the “immigration issue” mostly in terms of economics, defending our country, or enforcing laws? Or is there another way for Christians to approach immigrants first as children of God?

I love my country and am thankful for the freedom and opportunity I have here, and I think it’s important to consider how our country is run. So I vote. I try to stay up on political topics. However, as a Christian, the United States is not the most important citizenship I have. My primary citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven, and being a citizen of the United States does not begin to compare to the significance of who I am as a follower of Jesus.

Put simply, the kingdom of heaven far outweighs the kingdom of this world.

This was a hard distinction for me to begin to make because I grew up in a faith culture that subtly told me, “To be a good Christian is to be a patriot and to have undying love for the United States of America. Serving God and country are one in the same. We are the best nation on the earth and it is because God has blessed us specifically.”

Pastor Greg Boyd felt some uneasiness at this mixing of patriotism and faith years ago when he attended a 4th of July service at a mega church. At the end of the service, they sang “God Bless America” and a video came on the screen with crosses silhouetted on a hill. And then fighter jets blasted across the scene. It was a stark juxtaposition and he began to question who or what is being worshiped when America and God seem so intertwined. Are we truly worshiping Jesus, or do we view America as something so great that it also receives a place on the altar? [1]

 

 

So, what does all this mean, exactly—saying that the kingdom of God is the most important thing?

Here’s what I think it does not mean…

  • It does not mean that we won’t need to look at and address the laws of this nation, the situations in other countries, and other very realistic aspects of “the immigration debate,” but it does remind us what is most important and what should be primary to followers of Christ in this world.
  • It also does not negate God’s command to obey the “laws of the land” (Romans 13), but we cannot isolate that scripture and ignore the many commands He gives His people to welcome and care for the stranger.

For me, what it means to say that my primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God is to change my perspective and the lens through which I view everything. It recognizes that there is something more important than stars and stripes, and it asks how we are called to act as followers of Christ.

The authors of Welcoming the Stranger put it this way:

“Scripture suggests that all of us, as followers of Christ, whatever our nationality, have become aliens in this world, as our allegiances are to lie not primarily with any nation state but with the kingdom of God. Paul reminds the believers at Philippi that their citizenship is in heaven, while both Peter and the author of Hebrews refer to believers as ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world. (Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13).” [2]

As I write this series and approach this topic, I hope to do so humbly, ready to learn, and first and foremost as a citizen of the kingdom of God. We can talk about policies (and we’ll get there, I promise!), but I think our first reaction should be to move towards the “other” in humility, asking how we are called to serve them and share God’s love with them.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? How might it change our attitudes, actions, or language about immigrants if we view our citizenships separately?

[1] Greg Boyd preached a series in 2004 some time after this experience called “The Cross and the Sword.” He also wrote a book called The Myth of a Christian Nation. You might not agree with everything he says (and admittedly, the title of the book is a bit over-the-top–don’t be scared by it), but I encourage you to give it a listen or a read if you’re intrigued by the idea of how faith and patriotism have been so tightly intertwined in the US.

[2] Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang, p. 86

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  • Franchot Richard

    This is an amazing topic that you have embarked on. I have been following it very closely. I look forward to your insights.

  • Thanks so much, @franchotrichard:disqus ! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and I’m excited to keep writing. 🙂