Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
As America’s border crisis escalates, various voices with various political philosophies weigh in. Should we or shouldn’t we protect the borders? What about immigrants—should they be admitted? If so, how do we determine whether they should be allowed into the country?
The answers to all of these questions are not in nationalism or internationalism; anarchy or statism; racism or reverse racism; or liberalism or conservatism. No, like all moral issues, the answer rests in Scripture—sola Scriptura.
Here we draw from Scripture to show (we hope correctly) the biblical approach to one of the most important challenges our nation has ever faced.
The Importance of Borders
Scripture says, “Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark” (Deuteronomy 27:17a). Outsiders no more have the right to move a nation’s boundaries (by contempt for them or by seeking to eliminate them) than a thief does to move an individual’s property line.
After leaving Egypt, the Israelites requested permission from the Amorites to pass through their land (Numbers 21:21, 22). Unless this was done solely out of pragmatism to avoid a military confrontation, this would be an example of respecting national borders by not traversing them without permission.
In any case, national borders define a nation’s boundaries and its civil jurisdiction; as such, they are to be respected. Borders lose their significance if a nation don’t have any say as to who can enter the country, which compromises national security and the rule of law. The eradication of borders via mass illegal immigration, therefore, breeds lawlessness and rival jurisdictional claims that can lead to civil unrest and war.
Since, by the nature of the case, borders are a national security and jurisdictional matter, they are a concern of the state. As such, the state has a duty to protect their integrity, which includes a lawful immigration process.
Respect for the Law
The Bible requires all who dwell in the land to live under the same righteous laws:
You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 24:22)
In the book of Nehemiah, we see an example of the civil power guarding its borders from those who would violate biblical civil law. Here the governor Nehemiah keeps merchants who would violate the Sabbath from entering Jerusalem on that day:
In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. (Nehemiah 13:15-21)
Notice how Nehemiah draws attention to God’s wrath for violating the Sabbath; indeed, when individuals violate God’s law, then a nation risks God’s judgment (Leviticus 18:24-28).
When rulers enforce biblical civil law, they help to prevent actions that lead to judgment. Biblical civil law is a “terror to evildoers” (Romans 13:3, 4); it has a “hear and fear” factor (Deuteronomy 17:13) that keeps the wicked from inviting God’s wrath.
Given biblical civil law’s important role in helping prevent God’s judgment, nations should protect themselves from those who would, practically speaking, undermine biblical law by living in the land without living under its laws. Perhaps, then, the best course when it comes to immigration is to have a process of legalization where immigrants must commit to respecting and obeying the land’s righteous civil laws. (Granted, our nation has fallen far from applying much of biblical law.)
This goes hand-in-hand with a secure border. With a secure border, outsiders—including those with no respect for a nation’s laws—could not enter a country en masse, but through a careful legalization process that can help to screen out criminals. Such a process would also deter drug smuggling, the sex slave trade, and other criminal activities that open borders encourage.
A Nation’s Duty to Defend Itself from Invasion
Just as an individual has a right to self-defense (Exodus 22:2, 3), so does a nation. And if nations should oppose invading soldiers, then they should likewise oppose invading criminals. The goal is the same: to protect citizens. It is inconsistent to accept the former and reject the latter, for there is no practical difference between a pillaging army of soldiers and a pillaging army of criminals—which some illegal immigrants happen to be.
An unsecured border means subjecting citizens to violent criminals who cross it. This violates the command to “Rescue those who are being taken away to death” (Proverbs 24:11a). According to one article, “Border States Deal With More Illegal Immigrant Crime Than Most, Data Suggest.” But this should be self-evident, with or without data; criminals will naturally cross borders to both escape the law in their own countries—and to find fresh opportunities to commit crimes in the country that they enter.
Moreover, an influx of immigrants with no respect for a nation’s laws can easily lead to war itself. Consider our own situation: we have some illegal immigrants who not only disrespect our laws and our borders, but also support a “Reconquista” of the southwest.
But whether there is a civil war or not, we already have a problem with violent crime due to illegal immigration, and our civil rulers, therefore, have a duty to protect their citizens via secure borders and a careful legalization process.
A Nation’s Duty to Protect Itself from Contagious Diseases
A nation must also protect itself from diseases. In Israel, those with leprosy were quarantined (Leviticus 13:45, 46). Protecting others from disease is part of the Sixth Commandment. The outbreak of a deadly contagious disease can easily wipe out thousands. (This is not to be taken as an endorsement of state-imposed vaccinations, as vaccinations themselves can be deadly.)
Those with dangerous contagious diseases then must be isolated from the general population. When it comes to immigration, border control can help prevent immigrants with diseases from infecting the nation’s inhabitants. A legalization process allows immigrants to be screened for diseases before making contact with the general population.
However, we are not necessarily opposed to citizens of a nation providing medical assistance to those on the border with infectious diseases—so long as measures are carefully taken (e.g., quarantine) to protect the general population.
Treating all Immigrants with Dignity
While nations have a duty to secure their borders, this does not give them a right to mistreat immigrants—whether they are illegal or not:
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
As being made in God’s image, immigrants are to be treated with the utmost dignity. One should not react to our immigration crisis with hatred, as racists and extreme nationalists are prone to do. Neither should immigrants be met with vigilantism. There should be compassion for immigrants who seek refuge from a hard life or persecution. Christians should share the Gospel with them.
A nation should protect its borders, but it should not dehumanize illegal immigrants in the process; neither should it unjustly assume that all illegal immigrants are violent criminals just because some are. (Would we, after all, assume all Americans are violent criminals just because some are?)
While some might take the statement “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him” to mean that barring any immigrant from entering a nation is oppressive, I don’t see how that follows. Someone trying to illegally find a way to cross a nation’s border is not yet a sojourner in the land—and even the sojourner within the land is not above the law, so that arresting him doesn’t necessarily amount to oppression.
However, even in a scenario where an illegal immigrant is arrested and deported, he should be treated as kindly and as gently as possible.
Who Should be Permitted to Enter a Country?
Scripture assumes that a nation can, or even should, allow some immigrants to dwell in the land. For instance, Leviticus 24:22 holds that one law should apply to the sojourner and native alike—implying that immigrants and natives can live under the same legal-system, and, therefore, in the same nation. Deuteronomy 24:14, 15 assumes the legitimacy of hiring immigrants as workers—and therefore the legitimacy of immigration itself. In Israel, immigrants were permitted to voluntarily join the religious community, which again assumes the legitimacy of immigration:
If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. (Exodus 12:48)
This also seems to imply that at least in a Christian nation, outwardly converting to Christianity is not to be coerced, but voluntary; at the same time, immigrants cannot outwardly worship false gods or promote false religions (e.g. Exodus 22:20, Deuteronomy 13)—they must keep their unbelief to themselves.
The fact that Scripture allows those from other countries to dwell in the land without a restriction on race precludes the racist idea that a nation should only admit those of the same race of its inhabitants.
All who are willing to dwell in a country peacefully and according to its righteous laws should be considered for living in the land. Special preference should be given to the helpless (“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction …,” James 1:27a) and Christians (“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith,” Galatians 6:10).
Regarding the latter, the wise King Solomon longed for the immigration to his country of foreigners who wanted to worship the one true God (1 Kings 8:41-43). Moreover, nations can be a safe refuge for God’s people. Joseph, who ruled Egypt, had his family admitted into the country to save them from famine (Genesis 45, 46). When David fled from Saul, the land of Gath provided a safe refuge (1 Samuel 27:1-4). After the birth of Jesus, Joseph found refuge in Egypt to escape Herod (Matthew 2:13-15).
When King Sihon of Heshbon refused to allow the Israelites to pass through his land, God judged Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:24-34). Nations, then, should think twice about refusing to admit God’s people:
I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse. (Genesis 12:3a)
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40b)
Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. (Matthew 25:45b)
To a large degree, America itself began as a refuge for those who sought the freedom to practice Christianity.
We must also note that a nation cannot (unless it has a biblical reason) forbid foreign missionaries who preach the true Gospel from entering. The Great Commission—which requires Christians to disciple the nations—is backed by Christ, who has “All authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:17). Since Christ is the highest authority, then His authority trumps that of nations that oppose the entrance of Christian missionaries.
And in a Christian nation, it is suicidal to allow the entrance of those who refuse to give up practicing and promoting a false religion, or, for that matter, promoting damnable heresy in the name of Christianity (such as denying justification by faith alone). Attacks on the foundations of Christianity are attacks on the foundations of a Christian social order (cf. Deuteronomy 13).
However, as we previously noted, one doesn’t necessarily have to embrace Christianity to enter a nation, but if he rejects it, he must not do so openly.
Finally, a nation’s hostility towards Christians may be grounds for barring (at least for a period of time) the hostile nation’s people from entering another country. One can judge for himself whether the following passage has a degree of application today or was simply a unique historical circumstance for Israel. Note especially that it says “You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever”:
No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead, the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever. (Deuteronomy 23:3-6)
Many more considerations could be made about admitting immigrants. One final consideration here is the prospect of banishment: perhaps immigrants can initially be put on probation, so that if their behavior shows that they entered the land under false pretenses (such as claiming to respect the law when they don’t, or claiming to be a Christian when their lifestyle shows otherwise), then they would be expelled.
Consequences of Ignoring the Border Crisis
What are the consequences of ignoring our border crisis? Some include:
- A mass influx of violent criminals
- Mass drug smuggling
- The oppression of immigrants via the sex slave trade
- The eradication of America’s borders
- Violent overreactions against peaceful immigrants
- Bloody civil war provoked by those who advocate “reconquering” the Southwest
- Tyrannical powers given to the federal government in the name of waging such a civil war
- Globalist government tyranny resulting from the eradication of America’s borders
- A terrorist attack via a weapon of mass destruction smuggled from across the border
- A disease epidemic
By protecting its borders, therefore, a nation works to fulfill God’s requirement to protect innocent life:
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; holdback those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11, 12) (see also Proverbs 31:8 and Psalm 82:4)
However, while this mandate forbids the entrance of violent immigrants into a nation, it may also forbid keeping peaceful immigrants from entering a nation—especially the weak and those seeking refuge. And, as we’ve noted, allowing the entrance of Christian immigrants is a top priority. Immigration policy, therefore, must be balanced: it must as much as possible minimize the entrance of dangerous immigrants, and as much as possible maximize the entrance of peaceful immigrants.
Our civil government has ignored—or even encouraged—illegal immigration for so long, that even if we were to secure our borders today, it might still be too late to prevent a national catastrophe.
Of course, our nation has rebelled against God for so long, that national crises due to God’s judgment are what we can expect. In fact, Israel was warned that one of its judgments for rejecting God was that it would be ruled by sojourners:
The sojourner who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him. He shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. (Deuteronomy 28:43, 44)
As much as we should try to secure our borders, if we really want to live in a secure land, then, we must first and foremost turn to God and repent. Only then can we hope for border security:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13, 14)
For Further Study
For further study, we recommend the following which we found helpful in writing this article:
A Biblical Perspective on Immigration Policy by James R. Edwards Jr.
Biblical Law and Immigration by John Weaver