Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Perspective On Immigration From The Old Testament

Photo Credit: Edu-Tourist
One of the most pressing issues within contemporary society is the topic of immigration. This important subject is not just something for our government to consider but it is fitting for the Church to decide on how we will engage this matter. It is easy to simply view this concern through political lenses but those of us that are Christians must primarily look at this through a biblical grid.

For a thoughtful approach to considering how we can think about this matter, I recommend M. Daniel Carroll R.'s book, Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Carroll takes a balanced and insightful study on immigration and offers a compelling argument on how we can look to the Scriptures to shape our opinions on this pressing issue. Within the book, he examines the history of Hispanic immigration in the United States, looks at immigration as discussed in both the Old and New Testaments and sets forth some suggestions on how we can address this issue in modern times.

Within his overview of immigration as viewed in the Old Testament, Carroll adroitly brings a humanity to why people leave their homeland for another:
"The Old Testament is full of accounts of people on the move or who have settled in other places. Many reasons are given for this movement, and these migrations - whether of individuals or of large groups - span centuries. They are part of the fabric of biblical history - and ours. This realization offers a lesson to the majority culture. Migrations are a recurring phenomenon. According, Hispanic immigration to the United States is but another chapter in the very long book of the annals of humankind. That being the case, one can step back and try to appreciate why people, then and now, are compelled to go to another place.

The text gives a human face to the migrants. They are tested and discriminated against; they want to have a home and provide for their families; they worship God; they work at different jobs, some not by their own choice; others are gifted in special ways, rise to positions of authority, and do marvelous things for the country in which they live; some long to return to their homeland while others choose to stay in their new country; and they wrestle with how to coordinate their backgrounds with the different culture that surround them - the issues of language, customs, faith, politics, economics, and laws. These are also flawed individuals. They sin; they are imperfect in all kinds of ways.

In other words, the Bible offers the reader very realistic scenes and situations and amazingly true-to-life characters. These immigrants and refugees are people above all else, people caught up in the trials, tribulations, and joys of life. It is everyday life, but the text teaches that these lives are set against a much bigger canvas. These people are part of the plan of God for the unfolding of world history. Consequently, the majority culture must evaluate its reaction to immigrants. The Old Testament recounts compassionate actions of some as well as the cruelty of others toward foreigners. Herein are examples, good and bad, to be followed and avoided."
Some good thoughts to ponder...

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