As has been true throughout the history of our nation, religion and values emerging from faith continue to play a significant role in shaping American politics and public policy.
So, given the current national debate over immigration and comprehensive immigration reform, it seems logical that people of faith would turn to the Bible in search of insight and direction. The narratives of our faith tradition make it clear that the people of God have lived as immigrants and "aliens" in various strange lands. This fact largely defined the experience of the Jewish people in biblical times and beyond. Jesus spent time as an immigrant during his early childhood when his parents fled with him to Egypt.
What does the Bible say about immigrants? What follows is a listing of some of the texts that speak of "aliens" and how they should be regarded:
"I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens." (Exodus 6:4)
"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 22:20-22)
"Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 23:8-10)
"The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:34)
'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. (Leviticus 25:23)
"And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
". . .so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." (Deuteronomy 14:29)
"And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you." (Deuteronomy 16:11)
"Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns." (Deuteronomy 16:14)
"And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:11)
"Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 31:12)
"All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it—the priests, who were Levites. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel." (Joshua 8:33)
"So David gave orders to assemble the aliens living in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters to prepare dressed stone for building the house of God." (1 Chronicles 22:2)
"Solomon took a census of all the aliens who were in Israel, after the census his father David had taken; and they were found to be 153,600. (2 Chronicles 2:17)
"The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob. (Isaiah 14:1)
"You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (Ezekiel 47:22)
"So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty." (Malachi 3:5)
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. (Ephesus 2:19)
"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (Hebrews 11:13)
"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." (1 Peter 2:11)
Conclusions? Here are a couple I've come up with.
1) God expects that "strangers" or immigrants be treated fairly, with compassion and justice. In fact, the faith of God's people is demonstrated by how they treat the outsider. Jesus once said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
2) People of faith regard themselves as "aliens" or immigrants making their way through life and, as a result, should naturally identify with others who are living here far from their homelands.
I'd love to hear your reactions.