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Thinking Theologically about Immigration Lisa Sharon Harper & Matthew Soerens. In the Beginning…. Genesis 1 Very Good ( mehode tobe ) Humans made in the image ( tselem ) of God Dominion ( radah )

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Thinking theologically about immigration lisa sharon harper matthew soerens

Thinking Theologically about Immigration

Lisa Sharon Harper & Matthew Soerens


In the beginning
In the Beginning…

  • Genesis 1

    • Very Good (mehodetobe)

    • Humans made in the image (tselem) of God Dominion (radah)

    • Vs. 28 “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” The divine command to migrate


In the beginning1
In the Beginning…

  • Genesis 3

    • The Fall

      • Every relationship that God declared “very good” is shattered, including relationship between systems and the people they govern

      • Man’s fallen dominion vs. God’s dominion


In the beginning2
In the Beginning…

  • Genesis 12

    • Abram and Sarai

      • Context

        • Famine in the land

        • Pharaoh’s word = Egyptian law


In the beginning3
In the Beginning…

  • Genesis 12

    • Abram and Sarai

      • The Lie

        • Consequences of the lie

        • Where does God’s judgment fall?


In the beginning4
In the Beginning…

  • Immigration: God’s Dominion vs. Dominion of Men

    • Exodus 23:9

    • Leviticus 19:33-34


Immigrants in scripture
Immigrants in Scripture

  • Abraham

  • Joseph

  • Rebekah

  • David

  • Ruth

  • Paul

  • Called by God/Fleeing Famine

  • Victim of Human Trafficking

  • Family-based Immigrant

  • Asylum Seeker

  • Fleeing Famine/Family-based Immigrant

  • Highly-Skilled Employment- Based Immigrant


God s commands in the old testament
God’s Commandsin the Old Testament

  • The Hebrew word for an immigrant, ger, appears 92 times just in the Old Testament

  • Fundamentally, God tells us that He loves immigrants, and thus that we should

    • Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (CEB)

      TheLord your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants.


God s commands in the old testament1
God’s Commands in the Old Testament

  • God’s Law for the Israelites repeatedly insists that the native-born and the immigrant be treated equally

    • Exodus 12:49 (NIV)

      The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.

    • Just like the citizens, immigrants were entitled under the law to

      • Fair treatment as laborers (Deuteronomy 24:14)

      • A Sabbath rest from work (Exodus 20:10)

      • Prompt payment for labor (Deuteronomy 24:15)

      • Equal treatment when accused of a crime (Leviticus 20:2, 24:16, 24:21-23)


God s commands in the old testament2
God’s Commandsin the Old Testament

  • God commands his people to remember their own immigrant history

    • Exodus 23:9 (NLT)

      You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

    • See also Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:19

    • Most North American Christians also have immigrant histories, which we would do well to remember and to allow to inform how we treat immigrants


God s commands in the old testament3
God’s Commandsin the Old Testament

  • God recognizes immigrants as uniquely vulnerable, alongside the fatherless and the widow

    • Psalm 146:9 (NIV)

      The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow

    • Zechariah 7:10 (HCSB)

      Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor

    • Jeremiah 7:6 (CEB)

      If you truly reform your ways and your actions; if you treat each other justly;if you stop taking advantage of the immigrant, orphan, or widow; if you don’t shed the blood of the innocent in this place, or go after other gods to your own ruin,only then will I dwell with you in this place

    • See also Ezekiel 22:7, Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 24:21


Jesus the immigrant
Jesus, The Immigrant

  • John 1: 14

    • “And the Word became flesh and lived among us”

    • Jesus immigrated from heaven to earth.

  • Matthew 2

    • Dominion of Herod and Jesus’ flight to Egypt

  • Matthew 25

    • Key vs. “the righteous ones” = “the just ones” or “ones of equitable action and character”

    • Idea of hospitality: literally, the love of strangers, means welcoming strangers, not just making dinner for our friends

    • by welcoming a stranger, we welcome Christ


What part of illegal don t you understand
“What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don’t You Understand?”

  • Scripture also commands us to be subject to the civil government’s authority

    • Romans 13:1-7(NRSV)


What part of illegal don t you understand1
“What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don’t You Understand?”

  • Romans 13:1-7 Context

    • Paul writes the book of Romans from jail

    • After Romans 12

      • Do not be conformed to this world

    • Before Romans 13:8-10

      • Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law


What part of illegal don t you understand2
“What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don’t You Understand?”

  • Paul’s Assumptions

    • Rulers are no terror to good conduct, but only to bad

    • Good law vs. Bad law

    • “Do not resist authorities” / ”be subject to authorities” vs. Confronting authorities


What part of illegal don t you understand3
“What Part of ‘Illegal’Don’t You Understand?”

  • To be subject to U.S. immigration laws, we need to understand what the laws say

    • There is no contradiction between complying with the law and ministering to and welcoming immigrants

    • If laws were to change, criminalizing ministry to immigrants, it would be an infringement of religious liberty and may be a time when civil disobedience is appropriate

    • That’s why it is important to pay attention to public policy and to speak out against unjust laws, which is part of being subject to governing authorities in a democracy


What part of illegal don t you understand4
“What Part of ‘Illegal’Don’t You Understand?”

  • Immigrant believers who are undocumented read this passage differently

    • Many are anguished by this passage, as they desperately want to follow the law, but in most cases that would mean leaving the U.S. with no possibility of lawfully returning

    • They also want to provide for their families, which is also a biblical command, and to keep their families together

      • 1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)

        If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever

    • That’s one reason so many Christian leaders advocate for reforms to U.S. immigration law, to create a mechanism where people could get right with the law without abandoning their families


What part of illegal don t you understand5
“What Part of ‘Illegal’Don’t You Understand?”

  • Immigration Reform would restore the rule of law, which Romans 13 commends to us

    • Current immigration laws are completely out of touch with the labor needs of our country; as a result, they’ve only been selectively enforced for decades

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform would

    • Make it harder to immigrate unlawfully

    • Make it easier to immigrate lawfully

      • To meet needs of U.S. labor market and economy

      • To keep families together

    • Allow the undocumented to come forward, pay a fine for having violated the law, and earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship over the course of several years


A missional opportunity
A Missional Opportunity

  • The Great Commission compels us to share the gospel with people of every nation

    • Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

      Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

    • Immigration brings the nations to our doorsteps

    • Migration advances God’s Kingdom in multiple directions

      • Those who do not know Jesus—with a nominal faith or even from an entirely unreached people group—understand the gospel for the first time in a new country

      • Those with a vibrant Christian faith bring it with them to their new country, reviving churches and sharing the gospel with those who do not know Christ


A missional opportunity1
A Missional Opportunity

  • The movement of people is not an accident, but part of God’s plan to draw people to himself

    • Acts 17:26-27 (NIV 1984)

      From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him

    • But many churches are missing this divinely-appointed missional opportunity, because too many North American Christians see immigration as a threat

    • Our attitude toward immigrants—whether one of welcome and love or fear and scorn—will impact how the gospel we proclaim is received


Your response
Your Response

  • Pray & Learn:

    • Text “G92” to 877877 to learn about the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge

      • For 40 consecutive days, commit to prayer and to reading one Scripture passage per day about God’s heart for immigrants

    • Come to tomorrow’s G92 workshop—”Welcoming the Stranger in Today’s US Immigration System,” with Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang—at 2 PM or 3:30 PM in America’s Center Room 221


Your response1
Your Response

  • Connect:

    • Get involved with

      • Visit G92.org & sign up for email updates

      • Like “G92 Movement” on

      • Follow @G92Movement on

      • Talk to or email Daniel Watts, G92’s coordinator, at dwatts@wr.org for ideas on mobilizing your campus

      • Attend a conference

        • Spring 2013 conferences in Texas,Minnesota, and Colorado


Your response2
Your Response

  • Take Action

    • Mobilize your campus and/or church to join in the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge

      • Download a toolkit at G92.org/experience

    • Contact your Representative, your Senators, and the President to advocate for just policies

      • Visit go.sojo.net/campaign/ccir to find out who they are and send a message in minutes

    • Welcome immigrants into your community

      • Look for opportunities to volunteer with newly-arrived refugees or other immigrants

      • Visit www.worldrelief.org/us to find a World Relief office near you


Your response3
Your Response

  • Go Deeper

    • Websites

      • G92.org – regularly updated blog, basic info on immigration, films, experiences, conference info & registration, & more

      • www.faithandimmigration.org – Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, including a blog and advocacy tools

      • www.welcomingthestranger.com – includes 9-session Learning Group guide for free download or purchase

      • www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com – includes an Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform signed by many prominent Christian leaders


Your response4
Your Response

  • Go Deeper

    • Books

      • Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009), by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang

      • Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media, 2011), by Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes