Border Crossings: Immigration and the Christian
INTERSECT (Where the Bible Meets Life) is a regular column of ONE Magazine featuring Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Email Garnett email@example.com
Roberto, my seatmate on American Airlines flight 1885, fretted because his luggage had already arrived at his destination and he had not. As he calmed down, though, he told me his fascinating story.
Anxious Paratrooper’s Tale
Roberto immigrated with his family to the United States from Mexico over 40 years ago, settling as migrant farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He enlisted in the army and served as a paratrooper in both the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Though nominally Catholic, my worried fellow traveler made no claim of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
His story made me rethink my own attitude toward the exploding immigrant population in this nation. One out of every three persons living here was born somewhere else. In two cities I recently visited, nearly half the people are Hispanic. At least two (and no doubt many other) Free Will Baptist strongholds are leading ethnic centers. Over 13,000 Hmongs (pronounced “mongs,” mostly Laotian and Vietnamese refugees) live
in Fresno, California. Nashville, Tennessee, is known as “Little Kurdistan” because it is home to the largest Kurdish community in the United States.
The “Omni” God
Two vital questions scream at us: how should Christians respond to the influx of newcomers? Closer to home, how should Free Will Baptists respond?
Remembering that the Bible must control our thinking, a good place to start the conversation is the prophecy of Ezekiel. He was a messenger sent to immigrants—citizens of Judah exiled to Babylonia. This priest-turned-prophet performed a unique role: he brought a New Covenant perspective to God’s people living outside their homeland in Old Covenant times.
Ezekiel’s message pinpoints three truths about God relevant to a Christian viewpoint on immigration in the 21st century. First, the sovereign Lord is free to do whatever He pleases wherever He chooses.
He is a global God.
The prophet’s magnificent vision in chapter one of the wheels within wheels moving simultaneously in four directions teaches us that God is not confined to a building, a city, or a country. Unlike Baal, Marduk, and the other ancient idols, the Lord of everything is present everywhere for a relationship with everyone who will trust Him.
Refuge for Refugees
Therein lies the second principle we need to note. God is ready for a relationship with people wherever they are. He is a personal God. In Ezekiel 11:16, the Lord reveals a stunning fact: He Himself is the “sanctuary” for His people. The Jerusalem temple, now in ruins, merely illustrates a far deeper reality. God is our dwelling place. We live in Him.
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations,” Moses writes (Psalm 90:1). This great fact sets the stage for the New Testament teaching that the Christian is “in Christ” and Christ is in the Christian. Paul and Stephen know that the “Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48-50; 17:24). God lives in His people, whoever and wherever they are, and they live in Him. Christ is the only refuge for refugees!
Finally, Ezekiel reminds us that God offers a New Covenant through Israel with the intent that all nations respond to His grace and find salvation. He is a missional God. The Lord Himself will come as the Good Shepherd, according to Ezekiel 34, a preview of Christ’s incarnation. Then the nations will see and know of God’s great, loving Gospel when He offers cleansing, a new heart and Spirit, and transformed lives through the seed promised to Abraham (read Ezekiel 36:23-28).
While we should express concern over the illegal entry of many immigrants, we must express compassion—the love of Christ—to all for whom He died, regardless of where they are from, where they live, or how they have come into our lives. After all, Moses long ago commanded God’s people to love the stranger who lives among us as we love ourselves, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). On many levels, all of us are immigrants.
I hope Roberto found his luggage. I pray that He will find Christ as well.
About the Writer: Dr. Garnett Reid is a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College.