Loving the Sojourner

 In Ethics, Immigration, Politics

Immigration is one of the most debated issues in America today. For years, political parties in the United States have debated various immigration policies. When it comes to policies regarding immigration, Christians take various positions, but when it comes to how to view and treat immigrants, there is a firm mindset and attitude that Christians should have.

Let me make it clear: this article is not to push a political policy or viewpoint. Rather, I will point to the Biblical truths that should unify us in heart and mind when it comes to the political issue of immigration. Politics is a dangerous ground for Christians, for it is far too easy to allow our selfishness rather than Jesus rule our politics.

As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, our minds desperately need to be renewed. Scripture is clear that we cannot produce this renewal on our own, and that it can only happen by the work of the Spirit in our hearts. In light of this, despite the various conflicting views on immigration among professing Christians, it is essential that we follow God’s commandments and allow Him to transform our hearts and minds.

How do Americans today relate to the Israelites after the Exodus?

You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
-Exodus 22:21

God reminds the Israelites that before they were set free from slavery and became Israel, they ventured into Egypt as sojourners. In other words, sojourners in that time were what we would call immigrants today. And at that time, Israel had a twisted and horrendous view of immigrants trying to join Israel. The Israelites were very closed off to others coming to Israel, and God reminds them here that they were once immigrants in Egypt and now need to treat sojourners as if they were one of their own.

Jesus must transform our political agendas and give us a biblical view on how to approach the issue of immigration. The view of many Americans and Christians today is very similar to that of the Israelites. We see in Exodus 22 and 23 that God tells Moses and the Israelites how to view different issues such as social justice, slavery, and festivals.

What a striking similarity these Israelites hold with many Americans today. Many Americans today view immigrants in general as people they despise and hate. Whether the immigrants come legally or illegally, many people possess a distorted view of them and believe that immigrants are inherently bad. However, there is a great deal of Christians who embrace their brothers and sisters of different backgrounds and nationalities. This embrace is such a beautiful picture of God’s grace and love.

However, America was founded and created by immigrants. In Exodus, we see God directed the Israelites to see that they were once immigrants and need to treat immigrants as themselves, and we as Americans can learn from this as well. We were once immigrants to America and we should treat immigrants in America as equals to ourselves.

Even though we are American, our urgent task should be to view immigration through a Biblical Christian lens and not a patriotic one, for Christ is far greater and far more powerful than any nation ever could be. Because we are Christians before we are American, there should be not separation in our worldviews, especially politically. In light of this, our treatment towards the sojourner should be one of humility and grace. Regardless of our political stance or what policies we may push for, our mindset and treatment towards immigrants should be one of selflessness and love.

Our Citizenship lies in Heaven

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
-1 Peter 2:11

Peter writes this to Christians spread all across the Middle East and Asia. His purpose is to encourage his readers, who are exiles and outcasts in the places where they are, calling them to endure persecution and remember that this is not their home and that Heaven is their actual paradise. Although not written specifically for Americans, this is such a good revelation that should cover us as Christians — that our citizenship lies in Heaven and not on earth.

If our citizenship is in Heaven, then our pride and patriotism should be dethroned by the Almighty God and His throne. God invites us to all become citizens of Heaven by the power of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. This should humble us that whether we live in America or Turkey or Antarctica; our true citizenship lies in Heaven. As Paul writes to Philippi in Philippians 3:20, But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can and should apply this truth to our lives.

Our current geographical location does not affect our citizenship. If we have been saved by Christ and Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), then your citizenship lies in Heaven. And if we are citizens of Heaven, and our lives have been saved and transformed by the power of Christ, then we have received the calling to lovingly share the gospel with people of all backgrounds.

What a shame it would be to continue on with our lives, walking in our temporary and earthly citizenship, never sharing the gospel to those who have yet to hear it! What an opportunity, however, it is to be able to proclaim the gospel to those less fortunate than us earthly so that they can become our brothers and sisters and reside in Heaven with us eternally!

Our Call as Christians

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
-Philippians 1:27

Paul writes to the church of Philippi that when he returns to Philippi or hears of them,  he would receive news that they were standing firm in one spirit and with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Paul’s expectation is to see or hear that Philippi has become a community of believers centered around the gospel. This expectation is not merely for those at Philippi, but rather is an expectation that applies to us today, even in our modern context. We must keep the gospel at the center of it all.

As Christians, our call is to treat everyone with love and grace. Our attitude and treatment towards all people should reflect that. As Paul points out, we should be treating immigrants with love. Christ has first loved us (1 John 4:19), which should push us to love because of this great love we’ve been given. In love, our call is to share this incredible gospel with everyone, including immigrants and people on both sides of the political aisle.

The gospel that transforms our hearts and minds is the following: We are all sinners who have disobeyed God and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Because we are sinners, our consequence and punishment is death. However, the gift of life comes through Jesus Christ and him alone (Romans 6:23). This happens only because God loves us and Christ purchases this free gift of life by dying on a cross and rising again three days later (Romans 5:8). If we confess that Jesus is the Christ and is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead then we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

We may have differences on specific policies and laws, but one thing is sure — the only way that we can treat immigrants with love and grace is to be humbled and realize that our citizenship is ultimately in Heaven and comes only through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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