Are Immigrants your Enemies? If so, do you love them?

This post was inspired by the story of a confessed illegal immigrant who prevented a young girl from being abducted and the horrors that most certainly would have followed. My question is this: should American kick him out?

I suspect a survey of a handful of Christ followers would reveal that the majority favor more stringent immigration laws. But should this be the case? You may think I’m trying to stir a political pot. I assure you, however, that any political relevance this may have stems directly from biblical conviction and my story as an immigrant.

The issue comes down to this: am I foremost an American or a Christian? I am American by means of my locale in the United States of America. I enjoy living in the US. The privileges are many, which is why immigrants will risk life and limb to enter into this ‘promised land.’ However, I am a Christian. I would wish for this identity to determine more of my life than the former, but I know this isn’t the case most of the time. And it did not used to be the case in how I viewed the immigration question.

Then, by the hand of God, I was forced to take an Immigration and Religion class at Fuller Theological Seminary (a seminary too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals–which means I loved it). There were many nights sitting through lectures that I was more concerned with following the Braves game via ESPN Gamecast. Moreover, bar graphs and pie charts and statistics do not speak to my heart, and these were many.

But what I walked away with was a new perspective. The story of the people of God is the story of an immigrant people. Certainly one would claim, “But what about Israel!” I understand. But think before Israel. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and to go somewhere else, destination TBD. Israel formed, not as the nation-state we think of today, but as a people. This people lived in captivity in other countries on several occasions, sometimes by force, sometimes by choice. But they were always the people of Israel/the people of God regardless of locale.

The Incarnation is the foremost instance of immigration in history. God the Son left heaven and entered into this world. How’s that for immigration? Legal or not. The Old Testament is riddled with commands to welcome the stranger, to provide for the outsider, to love the Other. The more firm man-made boundaries become in our minds and hearts, the more we’ll see the Other as the enemy.

But even if we see them as enemy, I think Jesus said we should love our enemies. Either way you look at it, from the Christian perspective, is it possible that we’re thinking about immigration as Americans rather than as Christians?