How does a Christian respond to SB 1070, the so-called Arizona immigration law?
There are numerous Bible verses referencing aliens, foreigners, and sojourners. We are told to treat them with much compassion [i]. The spiritual reality of these passages point to the Christian who is traveling through this world as an alien whose citizenship and ultimate residence are in heaven [ii]; I also believe there is a practical application in the here and now. Indeed, most of us live in a land where at one time our own fathers and mothers were aliens, foreigners, and sojourners.
Christians must preach and obey Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 and Ecclesiastes 8, too. These passages clearly teach that Christians are to comply with the laws of secular authority. If someone is in the United States illegally we must instruct them to obey the government regarding their status.
Christians must not engage in criminal activity. We must obey the census takers, taxmen, immigration officers, and all other government officials insofar as they do not prohibit us from preaching the gospel to the lost. To disobey the government authorities is the same as disobeying God Himself: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves …” [iii]
In regard to discipleship and evangelism, Christians must submit to a higher authority than the secular governments. We are instructed by our Lord Jesus Christ to disciple the nations. This discipleship includes preaching the way of salvation and also teaching them to observe all the things He has commanded us to do. If Christians are instructed by secular authorities to cease sharing the Gospel, then we must disobey the government even under the threat of imprisonment or other persecutions, including death. In this situation we must obey God rather than men [iv].
The Arizona immigration law becomes thorny when there exists immigrants you know as friends and brothers, having been in the United States illegally for long time, and they have children born here. Residents in this category must come out in the open and work with the authorities to resolve their status. Remaining in the underground only compounds their problems and makes things worse for them later on. I would be surprised if our immigration services weren’t trying to help them resolve this problem too. No one wants to break up families.
PROPOSAL: Christians can become mediators on behalf of the illegal alien before the government. This would be a good ministry. Perhaps we can learn from Paul’s letter to Philemon? The slave Onesimus had run away from his master. Paul did not secretly harbor him. Instead, he instructed him to go back to his master and make restitution for his crimes. Paul asked Philemon not to treat Onesimus as a slave but now as a brother in Christ. Paul even told Philemon to charge whatever was owed by Onesimus to Paul’s personal account. We can find brothers and sisters in our churches and intercede for them, working with the government on their behalf to clear the way for legal status.
Meanwhile, we must assist illegal immigrants if we find them wanting for food and basic necessities. The Arizona immigration law does create a legal defense for someone providing emergency, public-safety or public-health services to illegal immigrants.
Comments are welcomed!
[i] Please reference “alien” or “foreigner” or “sojourner” in a concordance or searchable Bible.
[ii] 1 Peter 2:11
[iii] Romans 13: 1-2
[iv] Acts 4:12-21