Some questions for Christians on immigrants

I have some questions for Christians on immigrants.  What are your feelings towards and about immigrants?  Doesn’t matter if they’re legal or illegal immigrants.  By the way, in the Bible, they were called aliens.  There was nothing about legal or illegal.  Is your view Biblical?  Or is it the one put forth by our President?  I have to ask because, well, it can’t be both.  It’s one or the other.

Some questions for Christians on immigrantsAnd you know what Jesus said about things that came down to one of two choices:

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Do I have your attention now?

I’ll tell you right up front, just in case this is your first time visiting this site – I’m a Christian.  So my question to you – if you call yourself a Christian – is your view of immigrants Biblical?  More specifically, since Christianity is all about being a follower of Jesus – is your view in line with what Jesus taught?

Views on immigrants – No one can serve two masters

You hopefully realize that the quote I extracted above is from when Jesus was talking about storing up treasures in Heaven.  And you may be thinking – what’s that got to do with immigrants?  We’ll get there.  But hang on for a minute or two.

Here’s the context for the quote at the beginning.

Treasures in Heaven

6:22, 23 pp — Lk 11:34-36

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

So if you just read the one verse – you possibly relate this to just a choice between God and money.

Sorry.  As with other cases, like the Parable of the Rich Young Man, Jesus chose a common scenario to make His points.  With the rich young man, it was also money.  Sort of.  It was things.  Stuff.  All those things he accumulated, because of the fact that he had so much money.  Jesus told him:

Mk 10:21 “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Of course, the young man didn’t do this.  He walked away.  Keeping his things and his money.  Knowing full well that he was giving up the gift of eternal life that Jesus offered to him.

first question for Christians on immigrants

So here’s the first question for Christians.  Are you willing to give up the gift of eternal life that Jesus offered to you, because of your feelings about immigrants?  If you call yourself a Christian, you’re expecting to receive that gift.  But will you?  Or will you be like the rich young man, with one huge difference?  The rich young man knew he was walking away from the gift of eternal life.  However, are you walking away from it, but not realizing it?

Let’s look at the first part of the earlier passage:

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where your treasure us, there your heart will be also.

Is keeping your treasure affecting your view of immigrants?  Legal or illegal – doesn’t matter.  Is your view of them that somehow they are taking something away from you? 

Money?  Taxes that you paid – that you think shouldn’t go to them?  A job that one of them took?  And let’s face it – would you have taken that job anyway?  

Race?  Are you one of those who thinks the American (?) race needs to remain pure?  First off – let’s remember that the first people in this part of the world weren’t white Europeans.  They are what we now call Native Americans.  If you think the U.S. needs to remain pure and white – remember that if the original people in this part of the world maintained that same feeling – things would be very different.  The the “American” race would be Native American.  Not white European.  Full disclosure – I am of white European ancestry.  My wife is not.  Most of my friends are not. 

In reality, huge numbers of Christians are not white or European.  Are you able to deal with that?  Do you even want to be in Heaven if that’s “the kind of people” God lets in?  And last, but hardly least, Jesus wasn’t a white European either.  You do know that, right?  He was a Jew from the middle east.  Are you OK with that reality?  Or does that make you uncomfortable?

This is all very relevant when we consider: moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  Beliefs that go against what Jesus taught are the moths and rust of our faith.  Those who teach something contrary to what Jesus taught are the thieves that break in and steal Jesus’ words – and turn them into something else.  Like those who try to teach us to hate immigrants and people from “other” countries.

Views on immigrants – fellow Christian, do you know you are an immigrant?

So here’s another question for Christians.  Fellow Christian, do you know you are an immigrant?

No, I’m not asking about whether or not you’re from another country.

Truth is, I don’t have to ask.  I already know that you are one.  Remember, this is all about what’s Biblical.  If you’re a Christian – in the New Testament – you are an alien.  A foreigner.  Or other words that you probably don’t relate to yourself.  What’s more, some of you would likely deny that the term applies to you.  And yet … read on.

Foreigner. Noncitizen or alien, temporary guest, sojourner, or stranger. The Greek word for “proselyte” (“foreigner”) means a stranger in sympathy with Judaism (Mt 23:15; Acts 2:10; 6:5); it can also mean a convert to Christianity.

Did you catch that?  it can also mean a convert to Christianity.  If you’re Christian – you are a foreigner.  In Biblical terminology – that’s being an immigrant.  

And if you don’t like that – please don’t stop reading.  But you might want to be sure you’re sitting down.  Because – and remember that the Bible is God’s Word – it gonna get worse.

The Hebrew word meaning foreigner is rendered correctly on all occasions in the RSV, but the KJV uses it in its truest sense on only two occasions (Dt 15:3; Ob 11). In most cases KJV translates the word as “alien” (Dt 14:21; Jb 19:15; Ps 69:8; Lam 5:2) or “stranger” (Gn 15:13; Ex 2:22; Lv 25:35). Another Hebrew word means “dweller” (Lev 25:35; 1 Chr 29:15; Ps 39:12), or “settler.” For the most part, however, it is rendered “foreigner.”

This is why I refer to alien, foreigner and immigrant.  As far as the American language, the word immigrant is first found in 1792.  Obviously then, it didn’t exist in Biblical times.  So I refer to all three, since today’s word “immigrant” refers to both alien and foreigner.  Not to mention, the politically correct term “undocumented person”.  It’s all of them.  

And again – like it or not – we Christians are all of the above.  Yes – you might have a baptism certificate.  But who signed it?  Was it a human being, who accepted your word that you’d follow Jesus?  It surely isn’t signed by God – who actually knows your heart, and whether or not you’re really following what Jesus taught.

A temporary guest or sojourner was usually someone who wanted to take up temporary residence or had moved from one tribe or people to another, and then attempted to obtain certain privileges or rights belonging to the natives. A whole tribe might be sojourners in Israel. This was the case with the Gibeonites (Jos 9) and the Be-erothites (2 Sm 4:3; cf. 2 Chr 2:17). The Israelites themselves were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Gn 15:13; 23:4; 26:3; 47:4; Ex 2:22; 23:9) and in other lands (Ru 1:1).

Change the tribes to regions of the world and / or countries – and you get the idea.  It hasn’t changed.

Foreigners or sojourners had certain rights but also certain limitations while in Israel. They could offer sacrifices (Lv 17:8; 22:18) but could not enter the sanctuary unless circumcised (Ez 44:9). They were allowed to participate in the three great Jewish festivals (Dt 16:11, 14) but could not eat the Passover meal unless circumcised (Ex 12:43, 48). Foreigners were not obliged to follow the Israelite religion, but shared in some of its benefits (Dt 14:29). They were not to work on the sabbath and the Day of Atonement (Ex 20:10; 23:12; Lv 16:29; Dt 5:14) and could be stoned for reviling or blaspheming God’s name (Lv 24:16; Nm 15:30). Foreigners were forbidden to eat blood (Lv 17:10, 12) but could eat animals that had died a natural death (Dt 14:21). Israel’s code of sexual morality also applied to the foreigner (Lv 18:26). There were prohibitions against Israelite intermarriage with foreigners, but it was nevertheless a common occurrence (Gn 34:14; Ex 34:12, 16; Dt 7:3, 4; Jos 23:12).

These were all religious rights.  Tell me – if you’re Christian – would you deny the rights of immigrants / foreigners / aliens to attend your church?  Deny them the right to worship the same God you do?

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

18:1-5 pp — Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48

Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Mt 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Given that all Christians are, in a sense, to become like little children – do you still want to deny access to a child of God?

Civil rights were provided for foreigners by the Law of Moses (Ex 12:49; Lv 24:22), and they came under the same legal processes and penalties (Lv 20:2; 24:16, 22; Dt 1:16). They were to be treated politely (Ex 22:21; 23:9), loved as those under the love of God (Lv 19:34; Dt 10:18, 19), and treated generously if poor and receive the fruits of the harvest (Lv 19:10; 23:22; Dt 24:19–22). They could receive asylum in times of trouble (Nm 35:15; Jos 20:9). Foreign servants were to receive treatment equal to Hebrew servants (Dt 24:14). A foreigner could not take part in tribal deliberations or become a king (17:15). The prophet Ezekiel looked forward to the messianic age when the foreigner would share all the blessings of the land with God’s own people (Ez 47:22, 23).

Oh wow.  How are you feeling right now, if you’re view on immigrants is that of the image at the top – Denied?  Let me recap that:

Civil rights

Ex 12:48 “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’S Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. 49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

Of course – it’s Christian services – not Passover.  But still – would you deny the right to an immigrant?

treated politely

Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

We’ll get back to this one.  But for now, notice that it reminds the Hebrew people they were aliens (immigrants / foreigners) in Egypt.  

loved as those under the love of God

Lev 19:33 “ ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Not only treated politely – but loved.  And did you catch the reminder – I am the LORD your God.  Yeah – the same God who rescued them from Egypt.  The same God who gave up His Son – Jesus – to rescue us from Satan and eternity in Hell.

treated generously if poor

Lev 19:9 “ ‘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 alien. I am the LORD your God.

Uh oh.  There’s that money thing again.  And the I am the LORD your God reminder.  And no – we don’t all have fields anymore, but we do all pay taxes that are supposed to go to helping those who need it.  Today we call them “entitlements” – as if they’re a bad thing.  But honestly – are they any different than God telling the people at that time the poor people were “entitled” to the fruits and vegetables not picked up on the first harvest?  Hint – in case you need it – there’s no difference.

I could go on with more verses from that paragraph.  But I won’t.  If the point isn’t made yet – it’s likely that it never will be.

So let’s move on to the next – and final paragraph from our reference source.

In the NT, “foreigner” refers variously to Samaritans (Lk 17:18) and Canaanites (Heb 11:9, 34) The work of Christ allowed all foreigners to become members of God’s household (Eph 2:11–19). Christians should consider themselves foreigners in this world (Heb 11:13; 1 Pt 2:11).  1)Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Foreigner. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 807). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Views on immigrants – fellow Christian, do you think you’re a member of God’s household?

The work of Christ allowed all foreigners to become members of God’s household (Eph 2:11–19).

OK – this is where it might really start to hurt – if you’re thinking our President’s views are Christian.

One in Christ

Eph 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Eph 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Yes – before we were baptized – we were foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  Aliens.  Immigrants from the world of the pagans and sinners.  Looking to immigrate into the world of those saved by Jesus.  By Christ.  Therefore the designation as Christians.  Or so we try to tell ourselves – that we’re part of those who are saved by Christ.

The problem comes with this thought: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.  Part of what Jesus abolished is the hatred for each other.  Including the hatred of someone because they are a foreigner – an immigrant – an alien.  You know – someone from another country.

Paul goes on to write – Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.

But Paul’s assuming / implying that it’s necessary to actually at least want to have destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.  I know – we’ll never be perfect in this life.  However – we have to at least want to try.  For way too many people that follow in the non-Biblical speech of our President, there’s no desire to change.  Somehow, self-called Christians think this is acceptable.  There is no basis whatsoever for that kind of thinking.

What Paul really tells us here is that if we don’t want to live in a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit, then we are not Christians.  We, like the rich young man above, will not inherit eternal life.  At least not eternal life with God.  Rather – eternal life with Satan in Hell.

When we refuse to abide by the teachings of Jesus, we are rejecting  Jesus.  Notice – I use the word refuse.  Again – try as we might, we never actually become perfect, this side of Heaven.  That’s sin.  But refusal – that’s rebellion.  That’s grounds for – in the popular word used by those who hate immigrants – deportation.  Deportation from the dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.  As if we were ever truly there in the first place.

Views on immigrants – fellow Christian, what kind of fruit do you bear?

Here’s another question for Christians.  Jesus spoke a lot about bearing fruit.  Saying that we could tell what’s in our hearts – what kind of people we are – by the things we say and do.  For instance:

A Tree and Its Fruit

Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

One final question for Christians.  (Maybe two – or  more)

Tell me – if you’re a Christian, and you’re anti-immigrant – what do you think Jesus will say to you at the end of your life?

Are you expecting, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Or will you, regardless of what you expect, hear ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer’?

It’s not up to us to make that decision.  It’s God’s choice.  Remember the I am the LORD your God
That means He’s God and we’re not. 
It means He’s God, and the President isn’t.

And it means He decides who lives in the dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit, not us.

It’s not too late.  Don’t be left out.  Realize that you, fellow Christian, are an immigrant.  And treat other immigrants the way you’d like to be treated.

Fellow Christian – you are an immigrant

Remember when Jesus was questioned by Pilate?

Jn 18:33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jn 18:34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Jn 18:35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jn 18:36 Jesus said,My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jn 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Conclusion – Some questions for Christians on immigrants

Jesus said – My kingdom is not of this world.

If, as you say, you are a Christian, then your King is not of this world.  

If, when you were baptized, you truly became a follower of Christ, then you “migrated” from being a citizen of this world to a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  IF – you truly became a follower of Christ.

And that means, you are now living in this world, not as a citizen of this world, but as an immigrant from the Kingdom of Heaven.

And that means you aren’t expected or supposed to behave as a citizen of this world.  Not as a person led around by the nose from sin.  But as a person led to love, by the Holy Spirit.  By the mind of Christ.  By the King, who you promised to follow when you became a believer.

If we don’t do those things, then we are not, and will not be, citizens of Heaven.

Maybe this is actually the final question:

Jesus said, Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.  Are you listening to Jesus?

 


Image by amykins from Pixabay>

References   [ + ]

1. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Foreigner. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 807). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

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