What Does the Bible Say About… Immigration?

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In the UK right now there is a growing level of engagement with politics. The EU Referendum has had a huge role to play in this. One of the things the referendum revealed was how little many people knew about some key political issues. This knowledge gap was sadly exploited by political campaigners on both sides of the referendum, but can be particularly seen in the numbers of Leave voters who now regret their vote because they feel they were misled by the Leave Campaign.

I believe that it is vitally important for Christians to engage with politics. With that in mind, I’m going to be publishing a series of posts focusing on political issues, entitled “What the Bible Says About…” of which this is the first. Our politics, like every other area of our lives, should come from a desire to align our hearts with God’s. We need to understand what is important to God, and from that position form our politics. My intention is not to direct you towards or away from any particular political party. I hope you will find this a helpful guide, based on Scripture, to assist you in your political thinking.

Perhaps the biggest issue of the EU campaign was immigration. This seems to be a huge issue worldwide. Every nation is concerned about how many foreigners are coming to their shores seeking work, and many political campaigns are run based on trying to limit that number. Not all of these campaigns seem to have the most noble of motives. It is up to us, the electorate, to sift through the prejudice and downright racism to find the genuine facts. Alongside this, we need to discern what is the heart of God for immigrants.

It is troubling how easily we dehumanise people in our political language. The ongoing (although we no longer hear about it) Refugee Crisis is a clear case. Thousands upon thousands of people have fled their homes in Syria, not to seek wealth and fortune but to escape certain death, and we refer to them as ‘migrants’. God cares deeply about each individual person, and so should we. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 tells us,

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

God is a god of justice. He is concerned with the wellbeing of orphans and widows, but in this passage he shows particular attention to foreigners. The Hebrew word for foreigner here is gēr, which refers to someone from another country who has fewer rights than a native. He commands us to love foreigners and provide for them. This is costly and difficult, but some of the most important things in life are.

God’s concern for orphans, widows and foreigners – essentially all those who cannot provide for themselves – is clear throughout Deuteronomy (Dt 16:11-14; 23:7-8; 24:14-15) and much of the rest of the Law books in the Old Testament (Ex 12:49; 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:9-10, 33-34; 23:22). Certain media outlets seem intent on whipping the people up into fear over all these thousands of immigrants who are descending upon Britain, intending on taking jobs from British citizens or simply drawing benefits from the system without putting anything in. Quite apart from the fact that these claims are more often sensationalised than they are true, we must ask ourselves how God would want us to approach the subject of immigration. Would he advocate an aura of fear, mistrust and closed borders? Scripture seems clear that God’s heart is quite the opposite.

We cannot separate our politics from our faith, although some MPs have argued otherwise. If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus – which means you’re seeking to become more like him in everything you do – yet the way you vote contributes towards the exploitation or neglect of the poor and needy, you may need to re-examine the life of Jesus as well as your voting patterns.

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