Months ago I considered writing about immigration but decided not to. Now, I no longer have a choice. It seems that many Christians seem to have forgotten what the Bible says about immigrants. It’s baffling when you consider that a significant portion of the Biblical narrative centers on being a foreigner in a strange land.
There are dozens of scriptures that address immigration in both the Old and New Testament. Because of Israel’s history in Egypt, there was an expectation that they would treat foreigners with kindness because they too had been in the same position. Exodus is full of teachings on how to deal with those who are immigrants, but Exodus 23:9 provides an excellent summation by stating – thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. And if it weren’t enough, God repeatedly advocates for the immigrant, encouraging the nation of Israel to love the foreigner within their land and remember that they too were once ‘strangers’ in Egypt.
God understands the unique and vulnerable plight of the immigrant. He knew that people might legally mistreat those in the vulnerable position of being an alien in a foreign land. In Deuteronomy, God forbids Israel from using the court system to mistreat those who had newly arrived in the land and lacked inherited rights. The ominous warning issued in Deuteronomy 27 in regards to those who harm immigrants is clear. It states; Do not deprive the foreigner of justice. And to be sure that this law isn’t neglected God connects a curse to those who mistreat foreigners through the legal system.
What’s particularly interesting is that the Biblical narrative of journeying through foreign lands and being an alien isn’t confined to Moses or Abraham. The narrative continues in the life of Yeshua, who while in the womb of His mother fled persecution as Herod issued a decree to kill all the children in the region who were two years old and under. To save the life of their unborn child Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt.
You could correctly state that Mary and Joseph sought asylum in Egypt.
In the New Testament, Yeshua reiterates the message of the Old Testament in regards to how to treat those who are not native born. In a moving display of what love looks like, He tells his disciples, and all that will listen:
For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in.
In Matthew 25:35 the word stranger in this context refers to a traveler in a land not his own. It is the Greek word used for a foreigner or an alien. Just as God advocated for the immigrant in the Old Testament, His character is unchanged as He identifies with the immigrant in the New. We have to remember Yeshua’s words that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.