By: Rev. David Wilson Rogers
As debates over immigration flare and vulgarity flies from within policy meetings, the nation is understandably at odds with itself. Coupled with the politics of government funding, the recent rulings removal of protected status from Salvadorian refugees, and the on-going debate over the validity of a border wall, the immigration issue is one that is fueled by powerful rhetoric, strong political allegiances, and visceral emotions. Unfortunately, amid the fray of opinionated posturing and politics, the Biblical and Christian voice is frequently lost in the noise.
Illegal immigration is a challenging issue for believers because scriptures have been distorted for political posturing rather than faithful love of God. The Bible, in its beautiful complexity and flexibility, can unfortunately be wrenched out of context to support and defend sinful and destructive political positions and vile moral assumptions. (One only needs to look at the church’s disgraceful history of advocating slavery, subjection of women to second-class citizenry, and the abusive treatment of whole populations simply because of religious hatred to understand how poorly the church has lived out its call in Christ.)
When matters of illegal immigration and undocumented people residing in, or attempting to enter, the United States are considered by Christians, often Romans 13 is used as an absolute defense. According to Paul, the Christian is to be subject to the laws and ruling authorities. Therefore, because of the very fact that someone is here illegally, it is preached as a presumably Christian value that the legal, lawful, and “Christian” thing to do is be subject to the law and dutifully enforce the law.
This approach, however, fails to encompass the broader understanding of authentic Christian witness. Although seven verses in Romans call for the rule of law and submission to the authorities, they must also be balanced by the many verses throughout the Bible that call for the welcome of the stranger, care for the orphan and widow, and hospitality to the resident alien. Regardless of what the rule of law in the land decrees regarding immigration, the Christian has an overriding obligation to extend faithful hospitality.
Even within the broader context of the Bible, civil disobedience—that is deliberately violating the law out of commitment to a genuine Christian faith and God’s Biblical requirements for justice and equality—has tremendous precedence. Consider what would have happened to Moses if the midwives had not violated the law to save his life. Daniel, as well as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all disobeyed the laws in order to bring about God’s greater good. The apostles—including the same Paul who wrote Romans 13—were also law-breakers when they deliberately violated laws prohibiting the teaching of Jesus Christ. It was this commitment to God’s will, rather than the sinful support of human law created by leaders more consumed by power, control, and wealth than any true understanding of God, that drove Christian leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to also violate the unjust and immoral laws of the land in order to bring about God’s justice.
Countless numbers of God’s children now risk deportation for no other reason than that some in this nation have decided that they have nothing good to offer America, that they are different and therefore do not belong, that their illegal status invalidates the legitimacy of their humanity, or that they came from regions recently derided in vulgar terms. This is a vile reflection of a depraved moral character in our nation and a sinful practice that must be resisted if we are to call ourselves Christian. We are better than this and it is time to live that reality!