The proper place to begin the immigration discussion is creation and the image of God.
Discussions on immigration should begin with looking at those who come as people, as individuals who have left family, home, nation, and culture to try to start a new life in a different, and often strange, place. Moving to a new place is common in the United States. Individuals and families are transferred all the time because of their work; others simply move to try life somewhere else. Immigrants are doing something similar, but in their case it is more complicated for a whole host of reasons!
If we see immigrants as people, we can begin to see them as God does. We must remember that God so loved the world that he sent his Son to live among us and to die for the sins of the world. God cares for humans; he loves humanity profoundly and with deep passion… and at great cost. What would it mean to see immigrants first and above all as humans in need? Can we love them as God has loved all of us? Both the Old and New Testaments call us to love God and neighbor—these two dimensions cannot be separated (Lev. 19:18, 33-34; Matt. 22:37-40).
Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that humans are the culmination of the creation. Each person is made in the image of God. Each person has value and unique dignity as a special creation of God: We have emotions, a will, a mind, a soul, and a body fashioned by God. As humans, we also have the privilege and responsibility, Genesis 1 tells us, to rule as God’s vice-regents over the rest of creation. That means that every person—even immigrants—has great potential as stewards and contributors to life and society.
Now this truth has a message for both sides. For the host, majority culture: What if the United States began to think of those who have come as gifts from God to build into this country, even as they work for a better life? For the immigrant: What would it mean to believe in this potential and dignity and to think of work, lifestyle, worship, and children not only as a way to a better life, but also as means of blessing this country in responsible ways? There are all sorts of conversations that could begin with these and other constructive questions, which can be mutually respectful and sensitive!
Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R. is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. He blogs at http://www.denverseminary.edu/m-daniel-carroll-r-immigration-and-other-matters/
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