Having spent much of my ministry reaching across racial and ethnic lines, and having studied what the Bible has to say, I have become quite passionate on these matters and have been a bit outspoken in this blog, as well as elsewhere.
I am saddened by the fact that many of my Christian friends hold views that I feel are unbiblical and sometimes even downright unchristian. Some feel that these issues are political and/or economic and have little to do with our Christian faith. This is especially the case in regard to illegal immigration. That is why I was overjoyed to find the book, Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church and the Bible, by M. Daniel Carroll R.
Uni and I have known Danny and his wife Joan for over 25 years, and though I would not consider him a close friend, I have known him well enough to be impressed by his deep and humble walk with Christ.
Danny is presently Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and is adjunct professor at El Seminario Teologico Centroamericano in Guatemala. He is the son of a Guatemalan mother and an American father and in a real sense has a foot in each culture.
He tells us the title to his book is a double entendre. Yes, there is a literal physical border to our southwest which divides the United States from all of Latin America, but he tells us that “for Christians there is an additional border. It is a metaphorical decision point.” We must choose whether our stand in the debate is “based on the Word of God” or “on other grounds” (page 23). We “Christians must think about and act on Hispanic immigration as Christians.”
Before diving into the biblical teachings on the issue, in the first chapter the book gives us some background: a brief history of Hispanic immigration, questions of identity and questions of economics. The book also points out the impact of Hispanic immigration on the churches.
The second chapter is devoted to showing that much Old Testament history is the story of immigration. Peoples were on the move from Genesis on: Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. (Was Ruth an “illegal alien”? See the book of Ruth, cf. Deuteronomy 23:3.)
The third chapter deals with the Old Testament teaching on hospitality – care for the stranger. The various Hebrew terms for stranger or sojourner are discussed. Provisions were made for the alien along with those for other at-risk people: widows, orphans, hired workers, servants and the poor. Danny sums it up in a rather eye-opening statement: “ … the arrival and presence of sojourners were not a threat to Israel’s national identity; rather, their presence was fundamental to its very meaning. The people of Israel could not be who there were supposed to be before God and the world if they forgot who they had been and from where they had come” (pages 109, 110). See Leviticus 19:33, 34.
In chapter 4, we are taken to the New Testament to see Jesus’ attitude toward outsiders. We also see Peter’s teaching on Christians as sojourners. Each section is concluded with “implications for today.”
I especially appreciated the fact that Romans 13 was dealt with in this chapter, albeit only briefly. For many of my Christian friends, the mantra on this issue is Romans 13. Danny answers that “Discussion on legality cannot be limited just to questions about complying with the present laws” (page 133). Though I agree, I wish he had dealt with it at greater length.
The book concludes with some final thoughts and the repeated admonition that we must approach this matter of immigration as Christians.
This is a brief book and can be read in a few hours, though it will take longer if the reader checks out all the Scripture references.
If anyone who reads this is forming or has formed an opinion on the immigration question, I would beg you, read this book before you set your ideas in concrete.