For this next step in the discussion we will look at some Old Testament passages and briefly discuss what they bring to bear on the topic of immigration. Again, I am relying upon the work of M. Daniel Carroll R., Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.
The Image of God (Imago Dei)
According to Genesis ch.1 humanity has a special place in God's creation. Humanity, we could say, is the pinnacle of God's creation. For instance, the account points out that God created and after each day he concluded by saying, "It is good." But on the sixth day, the day he made humanity, he concluded by saying "It is very good." It is as if throughout creation God was preparing creation for the appearance of humanity on the scene. He was getting it ready, so to speak. I once heard someone say that while God was creating the world, we were on his mind. This is exemplified further in Genesis 1:26-27 when God mentions that he will make humanity in his own image. In light of this, every person who ever lived bears the image of their Maker. This means that every person in the world possesses an inherent dignity and respect because they carry in them the Imago Dei.
When we look at this in light of our topic of immigration there are a few applications that come out. (1) "Above all else, immigration is the movement of people across borders. The bottom line is that it concerns humans: Their worth, destiny, rights, and responsibilities" (p. 65-66). The fact that everyone bears God's image must be the foundation for any discussion of immigration from a Christian perspective. (2) If one takes Genesis 1 seriously, then to treat an immigrant unjustly is to ultimately violate God and His image. (3) Because immigrants are made in the image of God "Believers must examine their hearts for possible contrary allegiances that might lead them to want to deny entry to those from elsewhere-whether this be on cultural, racial, socioeconomic, educational, or political grounds" (p. 68). (4) Applying to the immigrant, the fact that the immigrant is made in God's image should cause them to reflect on what His expectations for them might be. "For the [immigrant], as for the majority culture, being God's representative is both a privilege and a responsibility" (p. 70).
Migration in the Old Testament
The Old Testament has numerous accounts of people who moved across borders. Sometimes this involved individuals, other times it involved families or large groups of people. There were also numerous reasons for these migrations. Sometimes they were forced, other times they were voluntary. Genesis contains many of these migration accounts. One example is that of Abram (Abraham). God commands him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and go to Canaan (Gen. 11:31-12:9). Abram and his descendants went on to live a nomadic life even in the promised land. The patriarchs are often referred to as "sojourners" (Abraham 17:8; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4; Isaac 35:27; 37:1; Jacob 28:4; 32:4; Jacob's sons 47:4, 9). Let's not forget Joseph, Ruth and Naomi, Daniel and Israel as a nation in Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Migrations and accounts of aliens and sojourners in a foreign land seem to permeate the Old Testament.
M. Daniel Carroll R. summarizes the importance of this when he writes:
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 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 the compassionate acts of some as well as the cruelty of others toward foreigners. Herein are examples, good and bad, to be followed and avoided. (p. 86-87)In our next post we will look at the Old Testament Law and what that may bring to bear on the topic of immigration.