Immigration and the Church | God's World News

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Immigration and the Church

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    Migrants who entered the United States from Mexico line up for processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP/Eric Gay)
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    President Joe Biden walks along the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
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    Migrants pray before turning themselves in to immigration authorities in downtown El Paso, Texas. (AP/Andres Leighton)
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    Migrants wake at a campsite outside Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso, Texas. (AP/Andres Leighton)
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    Officials take migrants into custody at the Texas-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP/Eric Gay)
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    Anita Craig protests for secure borders in Santa Clara, California. (AP/Paul Sakuma)
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It’s election year in the United States. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump propose vastly different approaches to the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. But do those differences also run through America’s churches?

Scripture says to obey our governing authorities. (Romans 13:1) It also tells God’s people to care for sojourners and refugees. (Leviticus 19:34) When faced with an immigration influx, how do Christians balance those commands?

Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz says he believes nations have the right to secure their borders. But he also believes he is called to focus on feeding and sheltering the vulnerable among the immigrants. “This is not a political issue in the first instance,” he says. “It’s about putting into practice what Jesus Christ taught through the church.”

At First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, Reverend Robert Jeffress puts his emphasis on obeying the law. “We do not check for green cards—that’s government’s responsibility,” says Jeffress. “The Bible teaches that God created the institution of government to protect its citizens . . . Christians have a duty to obey the laws government establishes which would include immigration laws.”

These tensions can cause division. During election season, politicians and pundits spread fear and anger. Those emotions can infect the church.

But they don’t have to.

Matthew Soerens is the national coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table. He points out that most Christians want a secure border. But they also desire effective legal paths to citizenship for migrants and refugees.

Brent Leatherwood heads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. He believes Christians should seek a balance between border security and immigration reform.

“Far too often, our toxic politics pit security and reform against one another, ensuring no action is taken while citizens, migrants, officers, border facilities, ministries, and local communities are all overwhelmed,” he says. “That’s not just a failure of leadership; it’s a failure to be humane.”

What does this mean for how Christians should vote? Does it mean inviting in the stranger, even at the risk of economic trouble? Does it mean tightening security for the safety of those already within our borders? Might wisdom manage to do both?

In November, Christians across the nation will face that dilemma in the voting booth. But God is already at work in the border crisis—and not just through politics.

Across the United States, Christians are taking the lead in providing migrants with shelter, food, and legal help. Faith-based groups World Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, and Global Refuge aid immigrants. Even local churches help. Ordinary believers act as Jesus’ hands and feet to those in need.

Why? Political wrangling can cause division and present impossible either/or scenarios, but Christians can seek wisdom to serve both God and neighbor in the here and now.

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