The Rights of the Immigrant

I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me in…(Matthew 25:43)

I believe that when Christ told this parable, out of all the things He could relate to as a man, being rejected as a foreigner was possibly the most personal. He knew what it was like to run for His life, to become a hunted immigrant, because as a child His family had had to flee from the wicked vengeance of king Herod.

As it has been noted by many writers and commentators before, Jesus’ life parallels that of Israel. They too went to Egypt to escape a danger to their lives. They were foreigners in a hostile land. A land so hostile in fact that they were soon enslaved by the Egyptians. When the Lord delivered Israel by the hand of Moses He commanded the Israelites,

You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

So seriously did God enforce this command that when He listed the many reasons that He had exiled Israel “oppressing the sojourner (foreigner, stranger)” was near the top of the list (Zechariah 7:10).

Let me ask, what does it mean to oppress the sojourner? Oppression is when an individual or group of people are brought under the control of another and are treated in an unjust and harsh manner. This is always the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man. His reign means justice, peace, and righteousness. Human government, when unchecked by God, exercises tyranny over all.

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. (Proverbs 29:2)

So then, to oppress the sojourner is to exercise unjust control over him. To deny his rights. Now, unlike what we have learned today, the government is not the one that creates rights, but is instead meant to be the one that safeguards the rights that God has given us. What rights has He given the foreigner, sojourner, and stranger? Let’s go to His Word,

When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 24:19)

You may be thinking, “Okay, so what?” First off, this is a beautiful command from God. It shows His heart for the least of these. Those who could not support themselves are given a means to gathering food to feed their families (which shows an initiative to work, even if they are unable to find opportunities to work).

But more importantly (at least for our present purposes) it shows that God grants the foreigner freedom of movement. God certainly cares about property rights, enough to invoke a curse against those who steal someone’s land (Deut. 27:17). But this does not mean that the wandering traveler is forbidden from going through someone’s private property. In fact, God commands the property owner to allow the orphan, widow, and foreigner to pick left-over produce from their land. He repeats this command (in various forms) three times in the same chapter.

What is my point in all this? That when a government takes upon itself to restrict the movement of immigrants, to forbid their access to anyone’s land (even private land), then they are infringing upon their rights and oppressing them.

That they label the immigrant as illegal only begs the question, illegal according to who’s standards? The governing authorities are told by Paul in Romans 13 that they are God’s servants. Meaning that they are meant to enforce what is just according to His standard, not their own.

As Christians we have no choice but to correct oppression; to stand with God, no matter what a conservative, liberal, or any other stripe of politician claims. We are citizens of heaven first, and that means that we follow Christ as Lord and seek to obey His Word. Please, brothers and sisters, take the words of God to heart, even if you ignore mine. You’ve been too long influenced by the politics of this world. How we treat the foreigner is how we treat Christ. Let that sink in.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

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