A Christian Response to the Immigration Dilemma: Part 12 of the Welcoming the Stranger Series

We have argued that Scripture makes repeated and clear calls for us to take special concern for the stranger, to love them as ourselves, and to welcome them as if serving Jesus himself. God commands us to obey, which is primary if we are to truly follow Christ. ‘There is no other road to faith or discipleship,’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, except ‘obedience to the call of Jesus.’ We dare not dismiss God’s instructions to us, but rather should move from reflection to prayerful action. Serving and loving immigrants can take on different expressions, and each are vitally important in the broader Christian witness.

Soerens and Yang, p. 203 in “Chapter 10: A Christian Response to the Immigration Dilemma,” Welcoming the Stranger


Chapter 10 Summary

This week we have now completed the book. This final chapter is a call to action, recommending several possible ways you as a Christian can become involved in the immigration dilemma. In lieu of a reflection and training update this week, I will provide a short closing post post-race reflection on Saturday evening. Below, you will find a summary of the ways Soerens and Yang suggest you can get involved in the immigration debate from a Christian perspective.

I hope that you have been blessed by this book as I was. I found it very frustrating to listen to the news and the media, when I knew that godly guidance would be quite different from what I was hearing. At the same time, some of the perspective shared in this book is quite challenging, and demands quite a lot from us as believers. I hope that some of what you’ve read in the book might encourage you to get involved in your church communities and watch for what God is doing in your local congregation related to immigration.

Thank you so much for your engagement, generosity, and patience with my views as well. God bless you all.

Potential Christian Responses to the Immigration Dilemma

Prayer. The first thing we can do is to pray for immigrants, for our elected officials, and for policies that honor God and reflect his justice. Soerens and Yang write: “Many of our elected officials are people of faith themselves and are in positions of making incredibly difficult decisions that affect many people. They need godly wisdom, guidance, and counsel to make the best decisions for the common good.” Moreover, since this issue is so complex, there is no other way to address the factors involved. Immigration is driven by things happening “in some of the most difficult places on earth, where strongholds and bondage exist, and evil flourishes.” As we pray, God strengthens our love for those involved in these issues as we also acknowledge He is the only one who can change these circumstances.

Knowing and Learning from Immigrant Neighbors. “Only when we begin to personally know our immigrant neighbors can we begin to contemplate the biblical mandate to love them.” We must show the love God is building up in us in prayer through our actions by building relationships with our immigrant brothers and sisters. As we come to know one another, we stop being stereotypes to one another. The debate then has the potential to be less about statistics and more about our brothers and sisters.

Serving. Many organizations that work with immigrants and refugees have a constant need for volunteers. In addition, as we build relationships with others, we begin to anticipate and serve them in their specific points of need.

Giving. Any ministry needs financial support. This is also true for ministries serving the needs of immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants. “Many organizations and ministries that serve the poor are prohibited from serving undocumented immigrants, even if they would like to, because their funding sources—especially government grants—specifically state that funds should not be used to provide services to undocumented individuals.” Consequently, the church can bridge the gap and support these ministries if individual Christians are willing to invest their resources.

Educating our Churches and Communities/Advocacy. In the book, these two classes of action are not put together under the same category. However, I have put them together here because to someone on the outside like myself, they look very similar. Soerens and Yang describe how many Christians have never developed—or even been taught—a biblical worldview on immigration. Many evangelicals would welcome a sermon on biblical principles for immigration, or even appreciate teaching at the intersection of missiology and immigration issues. However, these resources and teachings are just not available to most evangelical Christians. As a result, the media has a greater influence on the average evangelical’s thinking on immigration than the Bible or even their local church. Advocacy is different from education since it involves, roughly, “speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” but from a Christian perspective, education and action are not separate. As we understand what is true, we are expected to walk in the truth. Therefore, as we understand a biblical perspective on immigration, hopefully we will be motivated to engage in advocacy, defined as “multiplying the voices of those who are marginalized, standing in the gap to present the realities of injustice around the world to those in positions of influence who can help change the situation.” Several specific actions are provided as a starting point including:

  • Finding out the positions of our local congresspersons on immigration issues;
  • Writing a letter to our local congresspersons stating how we feel about the immigration issue—highlighting the biblical basis for welcoming the stranger;
  • Scheduling a meeting with our congresspersons to discuss our position on immigration issues;
  • Writing an editorial in our local newspaper about our personal experiences with immigrants;
  • Identifying church leaders who support immigration reform and provide forums for them to speak about their positions;
  • Arranging a panel of speakers and asking people to pray and fast on behalf of immigrants in our local community;
  • Staying up-to-date on advocacy issues related to immigrants and refugees by signing up for World Relief’s advocacy updates by emailing advocacy at wr dot org.

Addressing the Root Issues. Perhaps the most difficult of all, we can recognize and address the root issues driving immigration around the world. Migration is traumatic, and it is ideal for people to be able to live in dignity in their home countries and communities. Sometimes the trauma and sacrifice involved in migration is clearly forgotten by those involved in the immigration debate. What can also be forgotten sometimes is the combined effect of our lifestyle choices on the environment, trade, and foreign policy, for good or bad, as drivers of global demographic changes.

Key Discussion Questions

  1. Is there a church or organization in your community that is actively serving the foreign born? How could you get involved?
  2. What could you (individually or as a group) do to help educate your larger church community about this issue?
  3. Many Christians are wary of meddling in politics. Why do you think this is? Do you think that there is a place for the church to be involved in political advocacy?
  4. What response do you believe that God is calling you to with this important and controversial issue? How will you respond to that call?

Training Update

This week, in lieu of a training update, I’ll provide a short closing post at the end of the week, post-race on Saturday. Peace and blessings, everyone,

Royce

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Royce Francis

Royce is an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the George Washington University. He conducts and teaches under the broad theme “SEED”: Strategic [urban] Ecologies, Engineering, and Decision making. His research and teaching interests include infrastructure sustainability and resilience measurement, risk analysis, and drinking water systems analysis. Royce is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

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  • demunyan@gmail.com'
    Daniel Munyan commented on October 24, 2018 Reply

    How about we take our stewardship of the earth, another biblical command, as seriously as we take our compassion for immigrants? Where do you think the majority of our nearly 8 billion fellow human beings would like to live if we had open immigration? We have a God-given responsibility to love and care for our families and communities and that means insuring that there are sufficient resources for future generations. Immigration has been controlled since the dawn of civilization largely to populate areas lacking people. THERE ARE NO SUCH PLACES LEFT ON EARTH. Advances in agriculture, transportation, and medicine have made it imperative we control if reverse our population growth in each and every country on earth. Otherwise the next generations everywhere will suffer the same fate as the refugees of today. The solution for population migration – and that is what we are talking about, not individual refugees – is to fix the problems that made people leave in the first place. Let’s put real economic pressure on countries that can’t provide for their people or who oppress them. That seems to be a more direct action to solve real human suffering than letting failed states send their problems and people here.

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