Immigrant Legislation #6: How Old Testament Law Dramatically Changes Today’s Legislation Debate
Oct 04, 2010 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
Elections in this country are fast approaching. Poll numbers are beginning to capture headlines, and politicians’ positions on a variety of topics are appearing in media ads, radio and television interviews, and editorial pages. An important topic that is on the table, of course, is immigration reform.
How are we to process what is being said about where legislation should go? There are those favoring stricter regulations and others who argue for a comprehensive reform that can lead to constructive change in the present unworkable system.
Several of our blogs have surveyed the content and motivations of Old Testament laws dealing with those from the outside. The motivations to welcome them are compelling. First, Israel had been outsiders once and had been mistreated; therefore, they should never act that way toward the newcomers in their midst. Second, they were to love those from elsewhere because God does. The key passage there is Deuteronomy 10:12-21. Those two foundational reasons still apply today.
All of this should lead to a fundamental shift in how one perceives immigrant legislation. Too much discussion and emotions have been spent on tackling the issue from a rights perspective: the right of immigrants to a better future for themselves and their families, fair labor practices, and basic legal process VERSUS the right of this country to protect its borders and preserve its way of life.
Old Testament Law moves us in a very different direction. From God’s perspective, it is not a question of rights that should drive the discussion (although the points made on both sides need to be addressed). Rather, immigrant law is an issue of moral obligation – that is, the moral obligation of the host majority culture to treat the vulnerable outsider in a way that not only reflects history honestly, but also in a manner that reflects God’s very person and actions toward those very same people.
Old Testament Law takes for granted that outsiders will learn the ways of Israel, but it never addresses them directly. Instead, it is directed at the people of God and holds them accountable for how they engage the immigrant. Moral obligation is the bottom line.
Should Christians not begin from this point of view? It is not difficult to see that this starting point would dramatically change the tone and content of the national debate. How the premise of moral obligation is dealt with reveals the true heart of those engaged in the debate and the most basic motivations for dealing with immigrants. Are they a burden, a people to be avoided and pushed out? Or, do immigrants actually serve as a mirror to our relationship with God? How shall the church—and the nation—respond to the divine imperative—the moral obligation—to love the outsider?