Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments of the debate on illegal immigration and the offensive rhetoric of many Christians:

I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the Gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by Gospel and mission.

This is a Gospel issue. First of all, our Lord Jesus Himself was a so-called “illegal immigrant.” Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with Him in Egypt (Matt. 2:113-23). Jesus, who lived out His life for us, spent His childhood years in a foreign land away from His relatives among people speaking a different language with strange customs.

In so doing, our Lord Jesus was reliving the life of Israel, our ancestors in the faith, who were also immigrants and sojourners in Egypt (Exod. 1:1-14; 1 Chron. 16:19; Acts 7:6). It is this reality, the Bible tells us, that is to ground our response to those who sojourn among us (Exod. 22:21; Ps. 94:6; Jer.7:6; Ezek. 22:29; Zech. 7:10). God, the Bible says, “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18-19). . . .

It is easy to lash out at undocumented immigrants as “law-breakers,” and to cite Romans 13 as reason to simply call for deportation and retribution. But this issue is far more complicated than that. Yes, undocumented immigrants are violating the law, but, first of all, most of them are doing so in order to provide a future for their families in flight from awful situations back home. Many of them are children (as our Lord Jesus was at the time of His immigration). And, even given our nation’s Romans 13 responsibility to maintain secure borders, the message our nation sends to those across our borders isn’t clear and univocal. As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land puts it, there are two metaphorical signs on our border: “Keep out” and “Help wanted.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t real political challenges here. I agree that the border should be secured. I support holding businesses accountable for hiring, especially since some of them use the threat of deportation as a way of exploiting these vulnerable workers. I support a realistic means of providing a way to legal status for the millions of immigrants already here. But there are many who disagree with me, and for valid reasons.

The larger issue is in how we talk about this issue, recognizing that this is not about “culture wars” but about persons made in the image of God. Our churches must be the presence of Christ to all persons, regardless of country of origin or legal status. We need to stand against bigotry and harassment and exploitation, even when it’s politically profitable for those who stand with us on other issues.

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