There is a lot of debate in our culture about what immigration, but what does Jesus say about immigrants? This article will investigate the relevant biblical passages from the words of Jesus.
Jesus on “The Stranger”
In one of the most memorable passages in the New Testament, Jesus compares those who will be saved with those who won’t be. Here, those who will be saved are described as those who care for the hungry, the thirsty, and the stranger,
“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…” (Matthew 25:35, NIV)
I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (Matthew 25:43, NIV)
Who Are “Strangers” in the Bible?
Who is this, “stranger” that Jesus warns us that we must welcome? The word used here is xenos, which is often translated as, “foreigner.” This word, “xenos”, is where the term xenophobe (fear of foreigners) is derived from because the term seems to have a connotation of foreigner, also known as an immigrant. I am not calling those who disagree with me xenophobes, my only point is that the Greek word xenos, translated as stranger, seems to actually mean immigrant. While I am not a scholar of New Testament Greek, this seems to be borne out New Testament Greek Lexicons.
These, “strangers” Jesus is speaking of seem to be immigrants and he warns us that we must welcome them.
Other Relevant Verses from Jesus
“The second [greatest commandment] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, NIV)
- Immigrants either documented or undocumented are our neighbors, living amongst us. Jesus commands us to love them as ourselves.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, NIV)
- As none of us would like to be deported, it seems like to obey Jesus’ command we shouldn’t deport our undocumented neighbors either.
Jesus and Undocumented Immigrants
It is often assumed that because the bible says we should follow the law that Jesus would support deporting undocumented immigrants. This seems to miss a number of key facts from the bible.
Breaking the Law & Jesus
While many assume that Jesus would never support someone who breaks the law, keep in mind the verses below.
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. (Matthew 12:1-4, NIV)
Breaking the Law & Other Christians
If breaking the law meant someone is not a Christian then we would lose Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther (and many other Protestant reformers), and many more. If Christians cannot break the law and remain Christians then we also lose many biblical heroes like Daniel, Rahab, John the Baptist, and more.
Love & Mercy
It’s also important to keep in mind that regardless of any of this we believe in a God that loves and forgives us, and commands us to love and forgive others. In the verses below, Jesus compares us all to the servant who owes his master a debt that we cannot pay back. God forgives this servant and expects him to treat everyone exactly how God has treated him.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:23-34, NIV)
This may lead to the question, shouldn’t we have mercy on undocumented immigrants just as Jesus had mercy on us? Even if we do assert that they did something wrong, perhaps God expects us to forgive them just as He forgave us. I trust that whatever conclusion you end up on that you will do so with an open mind and in prayer.
May God bless you.