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Navigating the Immigration Dilemma: A Biblical Perspective

by Stephen Davey

Rudy wrote in and asked:

What does the bible have to say about the immigration dilemma?

The issue of immigration is a complex and often contentious topic in contemporary society. It stirs up a myriad of emotions, opinions, and policies. As Christians seeking to understand and respond to this dilemma, it's crucial to turn to the Bible for guidance. While the Bible doesn’t provide direct policy prescriptions for this political challenge, it offers timeless principles that can shape our understanding and response to the immigration issue.

I want to preface my comments by acknowledging that the Bible recognizes the concept of national borders and the sovereignty of nations. In Acts 17:26, we read: "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place." This suggests that the existence of distinct nations and borders is determined by God. The Old Testament has many references to the boundaries of the nations of Israel and its neighbors. So, I believe that each nation has the right to defend its borders and to set policies for immigration. That said, here are some principles that should inform an immigration policy.  

The Image of God in Every Person:

The Bible begins with the fundamental truth that every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This foundational concept instills the intrinsic value, dignity, and worth of every individual, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or legal status. In the context of immigration, this means viewing and treating immigrants as bearers of God's image. Immigration policies that are based on prejudice must be viewed as wrong.

The Command to Love Neighbors and Strangers:

Leviticus 19:34 commands, "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." This passage, alongside Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), underscores the importance of extending love, kindness, and hospitality to immigrants and foreigners.

The Biblical Narrative of Migration:

The Bible is replete with stories of migration. Abraham left his homeland in obedience to God's call (Genesis 12:1-4). The Israelites migrated to Egypt and later returned to Canaan. Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape Herod's persecution (Matthew 2:13-15). These narratives reveal that migration is a common human experience and often part of God's unfolding plan.

The Law and Justice:

While the Bible emphasizes compassion and love for the stranger, it also acknowledges the importance of law and order. Romans 13:1-7 discusses the role of governing authorities in maintaining order and enforcing laws. This suggests that while Christians are called to show compassion to immigrants, there is also a place for lawful processes and regulations. Those who seek to immigrate to another country should do so lawfully.

Social Justice and Advocacy:

Prophets in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, frequently called for justice in society, including fair treatment of the vulnerable and marginalized (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3). This can be applied to advocating for just and humane treatment of immigrants, especially those who are fleeing danger and persecution.

The Kingdom of God Transcends Borders:

As Christians, we must always be mindful that we are members of the Kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom that transcends earthly boundaries and nationalities (John 18:36; Philippians 3:20). This kingdom perspective encourages Christians to see beyond temporary earthly affiliations and to prioritize spiritual unity in Christ.


While the Bible doesn't offer specific policy directives on modern immigration issues, it does provide guiding principles that emphasize the dignity of every person, the importance of compassion and justice, the respect for law and order, and the transcendent nature of God's kingdom. As Christians navigate the immigration dilemma, they are called to balance these principles, showing love and hospitality to the stranger while also respecting and adhering to lawful processes. Ultimately, the Christian response to immigration should reflect the character of Jesus, who embodied love, justice, and mercy in all His interactions.

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