Immigration issues and border policies have long been contentious issues in politics, but they are also creating a significant divide in the Christian community.
Many Christian houses of worship have embraced a “love thy neighbor” stance, arguing for benevolent treatment of immigrants seeking a better life. Some churches have even begun harboring illegal immigrants to prevent them from being deported.
However, there is a distinct sub-group of Christians who have taken the opposite position, throwing their support behind more stringent border policies that limit immigration to the U.S. Cracking down on immigration is not only in the best interest of the country, they argue, but it’s also in complete accordance with biblical teachings.
Pope Francis and “Compassionate Christianity”
Time and time again, Pope Francis has been a champion for immigration rights. He advocates for relaxing immigration policies and moving in the direction of an “open border” approach. Just last week, in fact, the pontiff reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to protecting immigrants.
Francis’ views reflect a compassion-minded Christianity, an ideology shared by many within the faith that focuses on promoting goodwill and kindness — no strings attached. Indeed, this overarching theme of benevolence toward foreigners is present throughout scripture. To give just two examples:
- Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
- Leviticus 19:34: “You will regard the stranger who resides with you as the native-born among you.”
Seems pretty clear cut, right? Well, not exactly.
“The Bible Supports Stronger Borders”
By its very nature, the Bible is interpreted differently by different people. In sharp contrast to the papal position, there are those Christians who insist the “compassionate” view is both naïve and misguided. Not only do they disagree with the concept of open borders on political grounds, but these folks argue the Bible actually supports stronger borders.
To understand this point of view, let’s examine a few passages:
- Matthew 5:42: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
- Deuteronomy 15:11: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
- Luke 10:25-37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
On face value, these verses seem to advocate kindness and compassion toward everyone. Not necessarily, say opponents of immigration. First of all, they point out that such passages use the word “you” – a direct personal appeal to the individual. Thus, they should not be taken as policy recommendations for the government. Rather, they are instructions for how one should conduct themselves on a personal level.
Secondly, such verses emphasize proximity. “In your land,” “your neighbor,” etc. Proponents of tougher immigration laws argue these verses don’t refer to people living in other countries oceans away, just those nearby. So while the Bible does call for generosity toward the needy, they believe we should focus on helping those already in the country before trying to solve the world’s problems.
Which View is More Compelling?
Where do you stand? Does following the teachings of the Bible mean helping others no matter what, or would Jesus approve of deportations and turning people away at the border?