Immigration & the Imago Dei

March 7, 2019

by Erin Bird

To my fellow Iowans, I know you are starting to think we live in Narnia, but I promise you Winter will end. Just hang in there.

As you await Spring, I want to continue our series here on the blog on the topic of the Imago Dei. Last week, we looked at how the doctrine of the Imago Dei informs us on the issue of race. Well, this week, I want to go a step further and talk about how the Imago Dei can guide us on the hot topic of immigration.

For the Immigrant or Not

Right now in the U.S., immigration is being contentiously debated. On one side of the debate, President Trump is doing anything he can to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants from coming into the country, even going so far as declaring it a national emergency. But many Senators and Representatives, even some within the same party as President Trump, are doing what they can to block Trump from achieving this goal through an emergency declaration.

When this debate arises within the populace, it seems if you are for immigrants, one end of the political spectrum will hate you, claiming you are going to ruin our country. But if you say you are against immigration, you will be accused of being a cold, heartless human being.

So do you just align with one side of the debate and let your relationships end if the other person doesn't agree with you? Or do you give up your opinion so as not to make someone else mad?

I believe that before we rush to join a side in this debate, we need to go to the Scripture. How does the doctrine of the Imago Dei guide us on this issue?

The Immigrant with the Imago

We need to remember immigration isn't simply a political matter, it's a people matter. And those people, regardless of their ethnicity, bear the image of God.

Which right away tells us we, as fellow image-bearers, have to consider the immigrant with love and empathy. What we often fail to do in this debate is consider that in the majority of immigration cases, people are wanting to move into a different country because they are looking for an improvement in their living situation. Sometimes it is as simple as looking for work, but sometimes they are fleeing a dangerous situation in an attempt to save their life.

This means most immigrants are undergoing great stress, due to extreme poverty or war or ethnic "cleansing." Can you imagine if your government turned against you, threatening your life or your children, simply because of your faith in Jesus or the color of your skin?

That's why God told the ancient Israelites to show compassion to immigrants:

"Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He 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."(Deuteronomy 10:16-19)

Even though God chose the Israelites to be His people, and He didn't want them to conform to the heathen practices of the cultures around them, He still called for them to be kind and tenderhearted toward immigrants.

Open Borders and/or Open Hearts?

Now, does this kind approach toward immigrants mean we just open our nation's borders, and let anyone and everyone flood in whenever they want? Probably not.

In order to truly care for immigrants and provide them with resources so they can become productive citizens of our country, some wisdom and organized efforts need to be put in place. But if you consider yourself a Jesus-follower, your first thought of immigrants shouldn't be based in fear, but rather empathy. And if an immigrant family were to be placed in our area, I would hope we, as the Riverwood family, would be some of the first people these image-bearers meet so we can welcome them.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

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