Immigration Legislation #5: The Tone of the Immigration Conversation and the Person of God
Aug 19, 2010 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 1 Comments
This blog has been silent for a couple of months. I have been out of the country (Guatemala) and doing some other travel to speak on immigration. It is now time to get back to the discussion here in this blog!
Over the last few months one of the most disconcerting things that I have encountered in the media and in some conversations is the surprisingly negative tone of some of those who are speaking up against immigrants. Some of these people, sadly, claim to be Christians. Things are framed around the notions of the supposed dangerous threat of an invasion of “illegal aliens,” who are bringing drugs, violence, and all sorts of destructive cultural values and habits!
In one of our last blogs we mentioned that in the Old Testament Law there are two motivations that are given so that the people of God treat the sojourner with mercy and generosity. We dealt with the first of the two: the importance of historical memory. We must never forget our immigrant past with all its hardships (social, economic, political, and linguistic). Once people forget those experiences, they will have little sympathy for the newcomers in their midst.
The second and most important motivation for treating the sojourner well is grounded in the person of God. The key passage is Deuteronomy 10:12-21. I have included it below in its entirety. What becomes readily apparent is that God says that in the past he had loved his people in concrete ways in choosing them and bringing them to a new life. Therefore, they are not to have a hard heart or be stubborn (v. 16) – which is exactly what we are seeing! Many have forgotten God’s good gifts, those things that should stimulate us to treat others differently.
God says that his love is not limited to his people. He also embraces the sojourner and also demonstrates this love in concrete fashion, by providing food and clothing (v. 18). Therefore, his people are to love them, and obviously that should be done in tangible ways as well (v. 19). God has provided the example to his people: you have been loved, now go love the sojourner! This command is followed by commands to fear God and to worship him. How important to connect the treatment of the foreigner with the love, fear, and worship of God! If we did that, how different would the conversation be!
Deut. 10:12 So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deut. 10:13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.
Deut. 10:14 Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the LORD your God, the earth with all that is in it,
Deut. 10:15 yet the LORD set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.
Deut. 10:16 Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.
Deut. 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe,
Deut. 10:18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.
Deut. 10:19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deut. 10:20 You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.
Deut. 10:21 He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.
Deut. 10:22 Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.