Do you live where your ancestors lived? According to Genesis, we are all immigrants because our ancestors came from Turkey after the Flood!
The word "stranger" is ger in Hebrew and xenos in Greek. It can be defined as foreigner, alien, or sojourner. In this article, the word immigrant is inserted for ger and xenos.
Abraham was an immigrant. "I am an immigrant and a sojourner with you. Give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead" (Genesis 23:4, ASV).
"You shall not oppress an immigrant, since you yourselves know the feelings of an immigrant, for you also were immigrants in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9, NASB). Joseph migrated to Egypt due to human trafficking. Later Joseph's whole family migrated there to survive.
Similarly, unwilling slaves were transported from Africa to the Americas. Today people migrate to help their families survive: Albanians to Italy, Hondurans to the U.S., and Filipinos to Japan.
Moses married a foreigner and raised an immigrant family. "Then she [Zipporah] gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, ?I have been an immigrant in a foreign land?" (Exodus 2:22, NASB).
The Bible instructs us to grant justice to immigrants as though they were our own brothers. "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the immigrants who are in your land" (Deuteronomy 24:14, RSV). "You shall not pervert justice due the immigrant" (Deuteronomy 24:17, NKJV). "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward| it shall be for the immigrant, the fatherless, and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:21, NKJV).
"If an immigrant dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The immigrant who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself| for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34, NKJV). "Love him as yourself" parallels Leviticus 19:18, which our Lord quoted as part of the Greatest Commandment!
The Jerusalem Church became an immigrant church. God often uses immigrants to spread the gospel. "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8:1). Millions of displaced refugees flee from their homelands every year seeking safety and refuge. Remember that Jesus and His parents fled to Egypt as immigrant refugees.
Jesus said: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was an immigrant and you invited me in" (Matthew 25:35).
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to immigrants, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2, RSV). The Greek word for "show hospitality to strangers" is a compound word, philoxenia: philos = friend and xenos = foreigner. Christians are instructed to be friends of immigrants.
What a wonderful opportunity for genuine Christians to assist immigrants. In so doing we care for Christ and entertain angels!
We honor immigrants by referring to them as "undocumented immigrants" rather than "illegal aliens." Their documents are not in order, similar to a person who drives with an expired license. We must differentiate between that which is legal and what is morally right. Prostitution is legal in some places. It is morally wrong. Under South African apartheid, a person could be arrested for using the wrong toilet. My wife's ancestors illegally hid slaves fleeing to freedom in Canada. Their actions were morally right.
If all laws were in keeping with the kingdom of God, then breaking the law would always be morally wrong. Nations around the world, however, have crafted laws that often run counter to clear biblical instructions to assist immigrants. We need laws that grant documents to productive immigrants.
Regardless of the political debate, God calls us to respect, protect, assist, evangelize, disciple, and love all the immigrants near us!
Note: Learn more about the church's work with immigrant communities in NCM Magazine (hXXp://ncm.org/magazine/)
Jerry D. Porter is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, May/June 2012
Please note: This article was originally published in 2012. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.