Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

A Look at Immigration through the Eyes of Biblical Justice

Tyler Johnson


By Tyler Johnson

Immigration is a polarizing issue in the United States. Along with so many other issues of our day, in the immigration debate, civility and resolution get lost in a sea of overstatement and fear. More than any other command in the Bible, God tells us not to fear. God commands us not to fear because he has ordered his world around love. Fear precludes love, and love is the antidote for fear (1 John 4:18).

A biblical perspective on anything always requires eyes of love. Advancing justice is an obvious implication of a life of love. The prophet Micah laid out a clear command to all of humanity to "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8), which is merely another way of describing the call to love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). The concentrated core of God's intentions for humanity is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. 

God's call to do justice extends to the whole world because "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16). Issues as polarizing as immigration demand that Christians approach them in love. God created the world to love, and love will give each person his or her due, and thus divine justice will be done.

Looking at immigration through the lens of biblical justice requires that we consider several different but related views: toward creation, sovereignty, government, and history. Our look cannot begin with Romans 13, which speaks to the rule of law, but instead with a precise remembrance that God created male and female in his very own image. God made the first humans in his image, and from them came every nation of mankind (Gen. 1, 2; Acts 17). Every human being who resides inside the United States today the glory of God and should be treated accordingly. 

God's sovereignty plays into a just view of immigration as well. Acts 17 makes a strong statement about God's sovereignty and the placement of peoples: "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him" (Acts 17:26-27).  

Behind all our rhetoric, sin and stumbling sits a God who has placed all of us on this earth at this time so that we might see Him.

God's view of government displays his care for humanity through the establishment of law (Rom. 12-13). God ordained government for the unique purpose of establishing public justice. The laws of the land are instituted for the purpose of creating a more loving and just society. This is why we, as Christian citizens and leaders, must work toward the establishment of just immigration law and process.

Finally, we must also take a historical view of immigration. We face our present challenges because of what we have and have not done in the past. It is unjust and naïve to approach today's issues while ignoring the past. For decades now, under the leadership of both Democratic and Republican parties, we have ignored established laws because it benefited our economy. As one scholar has said, "We need immigrants but we don't want them." This type of selfishness benefits neither our country nor the immigrants who come here seeking a better life. An acknowledgement of our selfishness in the past must inform and guide our approach to the future. 

In conclusion, as Christians we must acknowledge that our current approach to immigration does not honor God or advance justice. We must confess that God’s command to love our neighbors includes loving people who don’t look like we do, who don’t speak English, and who weren’t born in the United States. And we must work together as leaders and citizens to develop a plan that brings together and commits to uphold the biblical mandates to love our neighbor (Lev. 19; Luke 6) and to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13). 

—Tyler Johnson is the lead pastor of Redemption Church, a multi-congregational church throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”