A New Testament Look at Immigration: Texts and Topics

1) Revelation 3:20 – Jesus is knocking at our door. Jesus comes in many forms, some obvious and others less noticeable. Nonetheless, Jesus ends up on our doorstep, the borders to our home, and at the frontiers of our nation. Do we ignore the knock? Do we drain our compassion dry to eventually proclaim, “This is not Jesus”?   Wouldn’t it be easier to open the door?  We know who it is.

2) Matthew 8:20 – Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Even beyond the story of being a refugee after his birth Jesus remains the ultimate stranger in a strange land. Nowhere is home, despite being creator of the Universe. Where else can Jesus go?  Receiving the undocumented, homeless Jesus is our responsibility.  Our role isn’t to ask, “Why can’t a carpenter build his own house?”

3) Romans 12:13 – Paul reminds the Roman community to, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” Unlike the Old Testament scriptures reminding the Israelites to care for foreigners because “they were once slaves in Egypt”, Paul gives no word of explanation.  It doesn’t matter that your ancestors were slaves.  Now, as people of faith, hospitality is something we all do. The justifications of the past are no longer relevant. Paul writes to the Romans, “Do the right thing.” Christians care for the saints living among us, no matter where our journeys began.

4) Timothy 1:8 – Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. Paul is also telling Timothy that there are illegitimate uses of the law (religious, judicial, and political). Paul’s sampling of legitimate uses of the law does not include welcoming strangers, refugees, or asylum seekers in the wider community.

5) Hebrews 13:12 – Therefore Jesus suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. Jesus didn’t suffer and die in the well-defined borders of a modern nation state. Held in the detention centers of Roman Palestine, Jesus died on a physical and spiritual border. As a common criminal with no rights, Jesus could not be tried by laws protecting those “inside “the city gate. Salvation, as we read Hebrews, happens on the border, somewhere between our idea of civilization and the coming Kingdom of God. The writer of Hebrews says it’s what happened outside the gates that defined the future of Christianity. It’s past the gates, within the fences, and among the camps where we will encounter the resurrected Christ.  Let us go to him.

Richard Lowell Bryant

My God is undocumented,
He arrived,
Illegally, unwanted, and unknown,
Across the border of heaven and Earth,
With no identification, family, or job,
A permanent refugee,
From a genocidal king,
Forever being sought,
By greedy statisticians in Rome,
Living hand to mouth,
Among the poorest of the poor,
With no fish, no one would eat,
With no money, no taxes got paid,
with no money, no prayers got said,
with no documents you were as good as dead,
My God is undocumented,
living on the margins,
of fishing villages,
and textile towns,
crossing over,
to the other side
of the big bad lake,
to the undocumented side,
He’s moving today,
From your Capernaum,
To today’s Decapolis,
And back again,
To meet the undocumented,
Unloved, chained-up, people,
On the other side,
People like us,
Our undocumented God,
Our God who arrived without papers,
Illegally, against Roman law,
And no family at all,
With dubious lineage,
And no photo id,
Who died on the cross,
For you and me,
My God is undocumented.

–Richard Bryant