Immigration and Evangelism

July 26, 2010

Perhaps there is no hotter topic than the subject of immigration. If you want to turn a really nice dinner party into an ugly brawl, just stand up and give your views on immigration. Yes, you will have ignited a verbal war.

Judging the emails, Facebook entries, and Twitter chatter, Christians are talking a lot of immigration. But the question is, and should be, how should a Christian think biblically about this issue.

Its no secret that the population of immigrants is swelling in the United States. And many immigrants are not here legally. This has many people rightfully upset, not the least of whom are those immigrants who worked hard to be here legally. It’s quite obvious that the government has had difficulty enforcing the border. Some feel they haven’t worked hard enough. But they have beefed up security in the past couple of years, and if you believe it, the statistics show that the flow of illegals has declined.

For many, its an issue of law and order. A nation of laws cannot allow laws to be unbroken. I agree with this. Order in society is essential to freedom. Romans 13 clearly gives the government the right to enforce its own laws and Christians should abide by those laws unless they infringe on our ability to worship God.

Here is where I have a problem with the typical conservative reaction to illegal immigration. I think they have largely directed their angst at the wrong group of people: the immigrants themselves, instead of the businesses who have largely “winked and nodded” when it comes to hiring illegals below wage and getting much more labor than would be required for a typical working citizen. The Bible tells us that the laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18). Businesses have largely gotten a free pass on what could be described as a form of slavery or serfdom.

And yet, we have much more anger at the illegals themselves. My question, as a Christ-follower, is this. How does God see these people? Statistic show that immigrants, especially Hispanic ones from Mexico, have a very high percentage of converting to Christianity when they arrive. This is a huge mission field for the gospel.

So what should we see when we see the great tide of immigrants across the border? We should see what Jesus sees, “fields that are white and ready to harvest” (John 4:35). We should see human beings, created in the image of God, whom God wants to restore to Himself through the salvation of the Gospel.

But many times, Christians don’t see what Jesus sees. We instead see a rising influx of immigrants as a threat. I’ve had more than one conversation with them and I’ve noticed that people complain about the changing demographics of their neighborhood.

You see, Jesus was always about a perfect balance of law and grace. The Pharisees were all law. They even added to the law. They were so intent on finding, pointing out, and stamping out sin. And Jesus didn’t necessarily disagree with their assessment that men were sinners. But He also talked of grace. Grace that loves the sinner in spite of the sin.

When it comes to illegal immigration, I wonder if Christians lead first with their Bibles, they might come to a more compassionate response. This is why I think you’re seeing a rising tide of evangelical leaders push for stricter border enforcement, but also a humane and compassionate response to those illegals immigrants who are already here. Not because we ignore the law, but because we are also about grace.

And to those who will still argue about the law–are they willing to be completely scrutinized for every law they might be breaking. What about those Christians who refuse to obey taxes? Should we apply the same tough tactics some advocate toward illegals?

I know this engenders a lot of heated opinion. But here is the bottom line. As Christians, called to be on mission with God and to reach the unreached with the gospel–can we honestly advocate a “kick ’em out” mentality? Can we be faithful to the Great Commission and still speak of illegal aliens with the angry anti-immigrant rhetoric?

I wonder sometimes if we conservatives are more interested in scoring political points, in seeing the “bad guys” (Democrats, liberals, etc) defeated than we are in seeing lost souls won to the saving knowledge of faith in Christ.

Because I think we are to follow Jesus first, follow Scripture first, and then let our political viewpoints fall where they may. Most of all, to those who come here to the U.S. , will the church reach out with the gospel or with a political punch in the mouth?