To reject the truth that God loves and cares for immigrants and refugees is to deny God’s holy character. But affirming this truth requires many American Christians to renounce their political loyalties.
Within a religion co-opted by partisan agendas and infested by xenophobic rhetoric, stating even the simplest biblical truths—such as God loves immigrants and refugees—can trigger a wave of fear, vitriol, and opposition.
When our godly spirit of love, power, and self-control gives way to fear, we are tempted to listen to those who spout, “But they’re illegal?” and “They’re dangerous!” and “Our government can’t afford this!” But we must remember: when the skeptics, detractors, and even the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” he said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
The greatest commandment is to love—to love God and love others. How can we manifest the great love of Christ to those living in poverty, fear, and oppression? Is fear-mongering, deportation, denying asylum, refusing comfort, and withdrawing aid a good way of manifesting the love of God? Are we truly unwilling to grant earthly salvation to those facing violence, hunger, and death? Will we be a source of refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble? Will we put our faith in our heavenly King who literally died and rose again from the dead, or will we succumb to the doubts and fears of terrestrial rulers who cling to carnal wealth and power?
Will we put our faith in our heavenly King who literally died and rose again from the dead, or will we succumb to the doubts and fears of terrestrial rulers who cling to carnal wealth and power?
Refugees and immigrants are God’s image-bearers, divinely created and divinely loved. Jesus died on the cross for them. He doesn’t fear them, vilify them, or view them as a security threat. Instead, Christ sojourns with them by being a father to the orphans, protecting the widows, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and clothing the naked.
Some will say refugees and immigrants are breaking the law, but our observance of temporal laws should never supersede our responsibility to follow God’s supreme law. “We should follow our government’s law” sounds especially hypocritical coming from people who criticize the morality of abortion and gay marriage, both of which are legal under United States law. Others will dismiss the idea of helping immigrants and refugees because a few will be proven to be criminals. But for those pointing towards justice, this judgmental approach is neither fair, kind, nor loving.
Additionally, some might say that unless supporters of asylum personally open their own homes for shelter, the concept of accepting immigrants and refugees is void. But countless Christians support pro-life laws and policies, yet do not personally adopt or foster children (5% adopt, 3% foster) despite a growing adoption and foster care crisis. That most Christians don’t open up their homes to adopted and foster children doesn’t negate their argument for wanting unborn children to live rather than be aborted. That some Christians don’t open up their homes to immigrants and refugees doesn’t negate their argument for being more hospitable, generous, Christ-like, and welcoming. (Although perhaps we all could stop and think about the ways our actions support our beliefs.)
If the U.S. can afford to send 15,000 troops to the border, is it not capable of housing half that number of people seeking asylum? For a nation that boasts about the billions it spends on weapons and warfare, can it not spare a fraction of the cost for the sake of saving thousands of lives?
For a nation that boasts about the billions it spends on weapons and warfare, can it not spare a fraction of the cost for the sake of saving thousands of lives?
God loves immigrants and refugees. As Christians, this profound truth must supersede any of our political allegiances. We should manifest God’s love to immigrants and refugees because to do so is to be like Jesus. May we love and accept them as God loves and accepts both them, and us.
Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ.