Since April a “zero tolerance” immigration policy meant to deter illegal immigration, has led to the separation of over 2,500 immigrant children from their parents at our border. Before this policy families were only separated if parents were charged with a felony. My goal in bringing up this issue is not to enter into a political dialogue, rather it is to help the Church move toward compassion for the families being directly impacted by this new policy. As of the time of writing President Trump has signed an executive order to stop separating families attempting to cross our border. This is a great first step, however it doesn’t reunite the 2,500 families that have already been separated.
If you would like more details surrounding the policies and decisions surrounding this issue here are a few articles to provide more context:
I fully recognize there are layers upon layers of policies and views that play directly into the issue of immigration. Major pieces of this conversation revolve around “open” or “closed” borders, economic benefits and cost, and national security risks that come with open borders. These are all valid issues that we as citizens should wrestle with, especially as Americans in a democracy, we have the privilege and responsibility in having a say in our countries policies.
As relevant as these issues are, for Christians they’re not the primary issues that should be driving us toward mercy and compassion. More than reminding us of the hot mess that has been our border policies for the last 40 years, separating families at our border has exposed a deeper heart posture toward immigrants. I have heard numerous Christians primarily through social media call these parents “evil” for seeking a better life for their families by fleeing horrible circumstances in their home countries. These immigrants have been referred to as vagrants who are simply trying to leech off of welfare. This is on top of mainstream media generalizations that all immigrants are criminals, rapists, and as our President referred to them “animals.”
As the Church of Jesus Christ, the people of God are called to reflect the coming Kingdom of God in the here and now.
We are not primarily driven by popular opinion or political ideology. We are primarily driven by a Christian worldview that finds its source in the character of God as revealed in the Word of God.
The reason we should hurt with these families, pray to our God to move on their behalf, and tangibly show mercy and compassion is because God deeply cares for these families. We know God cares for these families for at least two reasons.
God’s View of Immigrants:
Immigrants are Image Bearers of God:
Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, “Then God said, “Let us make man (or mankind) in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
From the time of conception a human being regardless of ethnicity, class, immigration status, or any other social construct is an image bearer of God. As the people of God we have the privilege and opportunity to show the world around us the love and value all people inherently have because they bear God’s image.
The sad reality is when we lose sight of the fact that all people are image bearers worthy of dignity and compassion we begin to treat people as something “other” than how God sees them.
It is this “otherness” that has led to some of the greatest atrocities in human history. Just a few examples of “otherness” in action are chattel slavery, concentration camps in WWII, and the current abortion crisis. Admittedly, these are extremes that can happen when “otherness” is left unchecked, but all find their roots by first making a people group become the “other.” As the Church we should be stirred to empathy and action on behalf of the “other,” because we understand that in the gospel Jesus became the “other” so that we could become heirs.
God’s Heart for Families:
God is the greatest advocate for families staying together:
In Mark 10:1-16 we see Jesus confronted on the issue of divorce. What is key for our purposes is how Jesus responds to the Pharisees who were testing him. In verses 7-9 Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
What follows is the most important declaration in the Bible on the value of marriage and implicitly family.
In Mark 10:9 Jesus commands, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
These verses present two points that are significant in understanding the underlying evil that is taking place by separating families at our border.
- Families come from God.
Jesus affirms from the creation of Adam and Eve, marriage and the family unit is a God ordained institution. At the root of new families forming is the fact that in marriage God displays the love between Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:32)
In the same way that divorce leads to a false narrative about God because Jesus will never leave his bride. So too does anything that can lead to this false narrative, up to and including government sanctioned family separation.
2. Children are the purposeful work of God:
In the same way that the formation of a family is God ordained and meant to be a physical display of God’s love for his church, so too do children point to something greater.
Within a family children represent the same kind of helplessness and dependency on their parents, as we do with Christ. Whether biological, fostered, adopted, or otherwise God’s designed place for children is within a family.
The creation and existence of children within a family exists to display the humility, faith, and complete dependence we all have in coming to Christ, and entering his inseparable family. Christians should care about immigrant families being separated because it reflects something untrue about God.
Regardless of where you land on the political spectrum, as Christians this moment is a God ordained opportunity to show families being separated at our border that God cares. God cares because all image bearers are worthy of dignity and compassion. God cares because God is the greatest advocate for families. As Christians we uniquely know God cares for all nations because Jesus through the cross is bringing into his Kingdom, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” (Rev.7:9) My prayer is that in every way families are threatened, the Church would step into the gap and through words of peace and acts of mercy, we would proclaim, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Here are resources to help develop a robust theological view on immigration:
Just Immigration: American Policy in Christian Perspective by Mark. R. Amstutz
Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible by M. Daniel Carroll R.
Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang