A timely question: how does God want me to respond to immigrants in the US? The short answer–love. As a believer in Jesus, I should love God with all my heart, soul and mind. And I should love my neighbors the same as I love myself (Matt. 22:37-39). However, God offers much more specific instructions about how we should love our neighbors who happen to be foreigners (or aliens, or strangers, or sojourners, depending on the translation) living in our country.
We also see throughout the Bible God has been moving people across borders for millennia. The first thing he asked Abram to do was, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation.” (Gen. 12:1-2). And then Paul explains in Acts 17:26-27, that God has been moving people around as a part of His plan so they search for and hopefully find Him.
If you’re struggling to have an attitude of love towards immigrants and refugees, prayerfully consider the following scriptures and ask God to work in your heart to make it more like His.
Abram, Joseph and Moses
When God chose a people to be His holy nation on earth, He began with Abram (who later became Abraham). And He instructed Abram to pack up everything–family, possessions and animals–and leave his homeland and his father’s family. So right from the start, God was uprooting His people and moving them across borders. (Gen. 12)
Starting in Genesis 37, we read that Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, was still living “in the land where his father was a stranger.” Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph to Ishmaelites who then sold him in Egypt as a slave. Joseph becomes a central figure of Hebrew history even as he becomes a powerful leader reporting directly to Egypt’s Pharaoh.
Generations pass and, in Exodus, we see Moses lead the Hebrew people out Egypt’s borders back to Canaan, which later became Israel. And it is from that era that we see God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding the treatment of foreigners in their land.
God’s Heart for the Vulnerable
God gave the Israelites clear instructions regarding the treatment of certain people. God knew that three types of people were (and still are) more vulnerable to abuse than many–widows, orphans and aliens. (Again, depending on the translation, it may be aliens, foreigners, strangers, etc.) Here is a partial list of verses containing those instructions:
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 22 Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”
9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
15 “The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: 16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”
17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Part of God’s Plans Since the Beginning
All of this moving people across borders was not random. The times at which peoples would live and the boundaries in which they would live were all on God’s mind since He made Adam.
26 “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
Even Jesus experienced this movement across borders in His life. Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus and flee into Egypt for safety. In fact, during that time in Jesus’ life, He fit the current US government’s definition of a refugee.
13 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.'”
14 “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'”
What About Me?
Back to my first question: how does God want me to respond to immigrants in the US? When I read these scriptures, it is crystal clear that God wants me to love them and treat them the way I want to be treated–regardless of citizenship status. Interestingly, Paul reminds believers in Phil. 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And later in his letter to the Hebrews, Paul says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2)
So no matter where you align politically, one thing is very clear, God sees us all the same. He loves every single one of us regardless of our citizenship or lack thereof. And likewise, He wants us to love our neighbors regardless of their status.
Pastor of Mobilization & Outreach