“The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
Over the past few months, I’ve been promoting the “I Was a Stranger…” challenge in an attempt to rectify the fact that few Christians – just 12% of white evangelicals – say their faith is the primary lens through which they consider the issue of immigration. In the challenge, participants read one very short passage of Scripture focusing on God’s heart for the immigrant every day for forty days. I have really enjoyed participating in the challenge, and I wanted to share one of my favorite passages so far – Exodus 12:49.
For me, this verse highlights the fact that God views all of us as being fundamentally the same. God didn’t view native-born Israelites as being inherently better than Israelites who came from other places – God’s chosen people were his chosen people, regardless of their race/ethnicity/nationality. Because they were viewed as equals in God’s eyes, they were also to be treated equally when it came to the application of the law.
Furthermore, God is a God of justice! God makes it clear in scripture that he treats people fairly. For example, Proverbs 11:1 says: “The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” Scales are widely understood to represent the concept of justice. For example, in the Greco-Roman tradition (and subsequently, in classical art), Lady Justice is often seen blindfolded and holding a scale, to show that she is fair and impartial and treats equally. When you treat people fairly, by the same scale, God is pleased. God clearly says that everyone, whether foreigners or not, should be treated equally because as Geneses 1:27-28 (the passage from Day 1) says, everyone is made in his image!
In terms of the present day application of this verse, perhaps one can make an argument that in Exodus 12:49, God isn’t necessarily giving twenty-first century America a law. However, scriptures such as Malachi 3:6, which states plainly that “I the Lord do not change,” reveal that God’s principles are unchanging. In general, it seems God wants people in one country to be accountable under the same law – regardless of who they are or what their background is! I believe it is scripturally accurate to say that today, in the United States of America, God wants all people – including immigrants – to be treated fairly. I don’t think our laws necessarily do a good job of this, even among US citizens. However, when it comes to the way we treat immigrants, I strongly believe that our laws fall short of this mandate. A story we previously ran on our blog recounts the story of a woman whose brother – a legal permanent resident – is in detention facing deportation for a criminal offense despite having already served his sentence, completed parole, and turned his life around. Numerous studies expose the fact that undocumented workers are often the victims of wage theft. For many immigrants, a simple traffic citation, which leads to a significant inconvenience at worst for native-born citizens, can lead to deportation. I think today’s verse, especially when taken in the context of the teachings of justice and equality that run throughout the whole body, makes it pretty clear that such discrepancies in the way people are treated break God’s heart.
Reading Exodus 12:49 renewed my conviction to pursue justice in the form of immigration reform that ensures all our immigrant brothers and sisters are treated in a more consistent and fair manner. What has the “I Was a Stranger…” challenge been teaching you? Share your reflections by emailing or by posting in the comment section below!
Daniel Watts graduated from Wheaton College in August 2012 and is the G92 Coordinator.
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