by Hunter Davis //
“According to a LifeWay Research poll in 2022, just 20% of evangelical Christians say their views on the arrival of immigrants are primarily informed by the Bible. That is a shockingly low statistic for people who say the Bible is their highest authority.”
Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, shared this at Trinity Baptist Church in May at “A Biblical Perspective on Immigration.” During this time, attendees from all over the Triangle shared a meal and heard Soerens expound upon how the Bible instructs Christians to engage immigration policy. Though specific policy points may not be found in the Bible, such as the number of refugees that should be allowed into the United States each year, there are clear biblical principles that guide our approach.
One of those principles is found in Genesis 1:26-27 which states that all individuals are made in the image of God. Therefore, they possess inherent dignity and creative potential. The immigrant community continually proves this to be true. In fact, a 2017 University of Notre Dame study found that 20 years after arrival, the average refugee adult has contributed approximately $21,000 more in taxes than they have received in governmental assistance and services at all levels. As Soerens noted, pundits may argue that our economy suffers when we welcome our immigrant neighbors. In reality, the immigrant community bolsters our economies at federal, state, and local levels.
Other biblical principles relating to immigration issues are found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and Romans 13:1-5, which show that the Lord not only calls us to be subject to the governing authorities but he also wants his people to care for the foreigner: God wants us to be people of justice and mercy. We can see the call to hospitality for our immigrant neighbors in Deuteronomy 10:17-19, where God commands His people to love the foreigner because they were once foreigners in Egypt. While God was speaking to ancient Israel, we can infer that God generally wants, for example, for families to be reunified and impoverished individuals to find work. At the same time, we are still called to respect the rule of law as seen in Romans 13. Thus, we can advocate for secure and functional borders. However, if we only take a hardline approach – invoking Romans 13 without Deuteronomy 10 – not only are we being disobedient to God’s commands but we weaken the witness of the church by failing to show the compassion of God. To live as he lives means to consider his character in all areas of our lives, including our views on immigration.
[I]f we only take a hardline approach – invoking Romans 13 without Deuteronomy 10 – not only are we being disobedient to God’s commands but we weaken the witness of the church by failing to show the compassion of God.Hunter Davis
As Matthew Soerens shared a biblical approach to immigration with churches across the state, I was reminded of a quote by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” I was encouraged to see Christians in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Wilmington embrace the authority of the Bible in the complexities of immigration issues. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” Though our polarized two-party system may at times take a sharp knife to the church, we have a sword that is sharper still. Further, this sword does not divide to destroy. It cuts through the political weeds attempting to choke out our Christian witness in the public square, allowing us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).
By the power of the Spirit and the Word of God, we can light up the darkness of a broken immigration system. We can open our hands, releasing our political presuppositions and let the compassionate and just God lead.
Hunter Davis is the Advocacy Coordinator for World Relief Durham, working with congregations across North Carolina to speak out in support of good public policy for refugees and other immigrants. Reach her at email@example.com.