|"To be clear, the blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection did not buy a ticket of entry into any sovereign nation in the world."|
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9A Gallup poll (2013) of people in 154 nations found that the USA is a desired permanent destination for over 138,000,000 people. They want to come to America. In this context there is great debate about immigration in America, especially over illegal immigration on the southern border. Between 12 and 20 million people currently live in the US illegally already.
The war for the wall on America’s southern border has both secular governmental and spiritual governmental components. Regarding the spiritual component, one element of the evangelical church sees immigration and refugees the same way as the helpless widow and the orphan. These evangelicals see governmental policy through the lens of Matthew 25: 31-46. This section of scripture finds Jesus speaking of the judgement of sheep and goat nations. Specifically in verse 35b some people define immigration policy by; ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’. They see every stranger (alien, non-citizen) as the immigrant foreigner who desires entry into the US. They believe we must accept them into our midst in order to align ourselves with Biblical truth. In my post last week I articulated Biblical principles found in Israel that clearly rejects such a big umbrella of acceptance, and I will continue in this vein today.
This particular passage is viewed by some to be guidance for national policy, personal policy, and the pathway to salvation. They view the reference to sheep and goat nations as those who do the works found in Matthew 25 (more on sheep and goats next week). Some who self-identify as ‘evangelical’ believe the good works mentioned in this scripture are the dividing line of separation between heaven and hell, eternal life and eternal fire. They believe this scripture represents the primary truth of all Christian theology. Organizations embracing this far left limited view of scripture include groups such as Sojourners and the Red Letter Christians. Shane Claiborne, a Christian social activist who is co-director of Red Letter Christians, said about this portion of Matthew 25 regarding the sheep and the goats:
"... the goats who did not care for the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned are sent off to endure an agony akin to that experienced by the ones that they neglected on this earth…We build up walls to keep immigrants from entering our country…And the more walls and gates and fences we have, the closer we are to hell."This political left view among self-identified evangelicals is completely counter to the whole counsel of scripture, and, as such, I wholeheartedly reject it. This does not agree with the core doctrines of faith, grace and believing upon Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9)." We must embrace the truths of Biblical counsel and stand on Kingdom foundations. The ‘Red Letter Christians’ see the words of Jesus as their source of all truth, not the rest of the Bible. For example, Micah Bales, a Bible teacher who was formerly an organizer with the radical Occupy movement, blogged about Matthew 25 on the Red Letter Christian site:
When Jesus judges the world, according to this passage (i.e. Matthew 25), he won't care what you think about him. Instead, all that will matter is how we answer questions like, "Did you care for the stranger?"That is heresy! We must beware of the misappropriation and outright heresy of some of these beliefs! The far left heretical use of Matthew 25 undermines the totality of the gospel message of salvation by faith alone. It undermines the whole counsel of God. Bales also said in regard to refugees:
"If we turn our backs on the Syrian refugees, we reject as irrelevant the claims of Jesus. We deny the truthfulness of the Bible. We renounce the Christian faith altogether…Let me be clear: You cannot ignore these refugees and be a follower of Jesus in any real sense."According to such beliefs, if people go to hell for not feeding the poor or bringing in every immigrant, then we must conclude that people who do feed the poor and bring in every immigrant do go to heaven. In other words, they propose the gospel as a gospel of works not a gospel of faith and grace. This is wrong!
This works-based measurement of salvation is centered on man’s perspective of doing good…especially in the context of Matthew 25. But if that is to be embraced as the metric of eternal salvation (the wrong metric I must add!) there would need to be an objective scoring of the nations. The Charity Aide Foundation uses international data to measure charitable ‘doing good’ to poor and needy. Out of thousands of individuals surveyed in 2018 in over 150 nations, the US scored #4 on their charity index! The US also scored very high in the ‘helping a stranger’ aspect of the index. Western European nations that push for open borders and unlimited immigration scored quite low. Only the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Norway made the top 20 charitable nations. So, does that mean the top 20 nations get to heaven? These scores change from year to year. Which year are the good works valid for entry to heaven? In a recent budget the President of the US asked for $39 billion for aide to foreign nations. Does a national budget get us all IN? Does the charity index mean the US is a sheep nation? Or does it mean that we individually are sheep? NO! This works-based heresy must be rejected both as a national policy and as a spiritual principle for salvation. It is wrong!
Moving on to another aspect of immigration. When it came to the offering of sacrifices and the worship of the true and living God, Israel, under the Law of Moses, had specific guidance for temporary residents, "[T]here shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you" (Numbers 15:15-16). The law here is the entire law beginning with the Ten Commandments and all of the details of spiritual and civil law in Israel. Those who were vetted were welcome in Israel as long as they entered freely into the worship of Israel's God and complied with the law. Such people were foreigners from other tribes and nations. A sojourner is defined as one who ‘stays temporarily’. They would be like those in America who have long term visas and green cards. Immigration then, as now, was not a right – it was a privilege that was granted only under certain specific conditions. Boundaries were for inclusion as well as exclusion. "Strangers and aliens" were to be received in Israel, and were to be treated with fairness and justice. But they were also to be taught the values and worldview on which the civilization and nation rested.
The biblical fact that we are to care for the unfortunate does not mean we should violate the law or eliminate national borders in doing so. It doesn’t mean every ‘stranger’ or ‘sojourner’ should be allowed into the nation. What are their motives? Will they assimilate into the culture and embrace core values? Or will they change the values and culture such as what happened to Israel leading up to their exile to Babylon?
Supporting, enabling, and/or encouraging illegal immigration or no-border-immigration is a violation of God's Kingdom principles. Only those intentionally misusing scripture or those ignorant of the Word regarding relevant kingdom principles will drink this Kool-Aid! To be clear, the blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection did not buy a ticket of entry into any sovereign nation in the world. We must not invoke cheap compassion to advance a political policy that devalues the cross of Christ!
More next week on the sheep and goat nations...