Few people use the word “foreigner.” I just Googled the word and the first two pages of results are all songs and information about the 80’s rock band that bears that name. Which, by the way, is one of the best hair bands of the 80’s! Honestly, when I hear the word “foreigner,” I think of the song “Cold As Ice” and start mentally rocking reliving the age of parachute pants and cassette tapes. But I digress.
On the third page of Google results I found the actual definition of the word: a person who comes from another country. The only place this word is used with any regularity is in the Bible. Over 100 times (104 to be exact) the Bible gives specific instruction on how to treat the foreigner or speaks to the unique struggles a foreigner endures.
Foreigners are in our cities, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and headlines. However, when they come up in conversations, they are called immigrants. That one word…immigrant…is packed with meaning, but it is not big enough to define a foreigner.
In America there are three types of foreigners: the refugee, the immigrant and the illegal immigrant. Refugees and immigrants are in the United States legally. Illegal immigrants are here…well…illegally. Undocumented. It is unfair to form opinions about immigration unless all three types of foreigners are being considered.
It is interesting that when God speaks about immigration in the Bible He chose to use the word foreigner, a broad word which covers the refugee, immigrant and illegal immigrant. One verse says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself,…”
“Treated as your native-born” Is this verse saying there should be no borders? Is it implying the foreigner should get all the privileges an American citizen receives? Is it commanding Jesus followers to not be concerned about the social, economic and safety ramifications of unchecked immigrants entering the United States? No.
When national media reports about caravans of people marching from Honduras to California, Arizona and Texas, citizens are forced to think about immigration on a macro-level. Ohio Joe, Nebraska Sue and Wyoming Richard begin to view and form opinions of immigration and its impact on the United States as a whole. What if God’s instruction is meant for a local response? Should a person’s opinion of a national challenge shape their treatment of a local foreigner?
I do not condone illegal immigration, but does that give me permission to mistreat, neglect or hold ill will towards my neighbor or co-worker who is a foreigner (the refugee, immigrant or the illegal immigrant)? As a follower of Jesus, I must strive to treat people as God instructs. In this case, treat them like I would any other citizen. Or better yet, love them like I love myself.
I am not a national leader. I haven’t been given the wisdom to apply God’s instruction at a national level.
I don’t live a few miles north of the Mexican border. I have not been offered the grace needed to live there, follow Christ there or represent God in that context.
I live in northeast Ohio. I’ve been called and placed by God’s sovereignty to live in the city I call home. I’ve been given the wisdom and grace needed to follow His instruction in my context. What if that is the point of following Jesus?
The only people God has called to figure out immigration at a national level are the national leaders he has placed in national positions; and God will help them, especially when they ask. Everyone else is to take God’s instruction and apply it in his or her neighborhood with the grace He provides.
This does not mean the local Believer cannot have an opinion about national issues, but opinions should never override Biblical instruction. In fact, opinions about immigration should be shaped by Biblical principles. To approach the issue without faith in God and a willingness to obey Him is to approach it the wrong way.