God’s Heart For Immigrant Families

The goal of this post is to help evangelical churches move toward compassion for families that have been impacted by President Trump’s immigration policies. At the time of writing (June 2018) 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:

ERLC: FAQ: What you should know about family separation at the border

NPR: Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Doesn’t Do

Axios: What’s in the two immigration bills getting a vote today

I fully recognize there are layers upon layers of policies and perspectives that directly impact the issue of immigration. Concerns revolve around “open” or “closed” borders, economic benefits and cost, and national security risks. These are all valid issues that we as citizens should wrestle with, especially as Americans in a democracy, we have the privilege and responsibility to make our voices heard in our country’s policies.

As relevant as these issues are, they’re not primarily what should be driving us toward mercy and compassion. Along with reminding us of the mess our border policies have been for the last 40 years, separating families at our border has exposed a deeper heart posture toward immigrants. I have heard numerous Christians, through social media, call immigrant parents “evil” for fleeing horrible conditions in the pursuit of a better life for their families. These immigrants have been referred to as vagrants who are simply trying to “leech off of welfare.” Mainstream media stereotypes immigrants are criminals, rapists, and “animals” to quote our President. 

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 hurt with immigrants, 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 at least two reasons.

God’s View of Immigrants:

Immigrants are Image Bearers of God:  

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 church, we have the privilege and opportunity to show the world the love and value all people inherently have because they bear God’s image.

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.”

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. “Otherness” in action becomes chattel slavery, Japanese concentration camps, the Trail of Tears, and the current abortion crisis. Each of these atrocities has happened when “otherness” is left unchecked and they all find their root in identifying a people group as the “other.” As Christians we can empathize and move toward the “other,” because we were the “other”, and 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 Jesus speaks on the issue of divorce. What is key is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. 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.

  1. 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)

Jesus will never leave his bride which is why divorce leads to a false narrative about God. Furthermore, anything that can lead to the dismantling of families false, up to and including government sanctioned family separation, says something untrue about God.

       2. Children are the purposeful work of God:

In the same way that the formation of a family is God ordained, meant to be a physical display of God’s love for his church, children also 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, or adopted 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 Christ. 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

1 comment on “God’s Heart For Immigrant Families

  1. Randy Leavitt

    This is well said. I agree with everything you have written here. I may go down to Harlingen in a week. Brownsville and McAllen are two places where a lot of this separation is taking place, right in our own Texas.

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