Daniel Montañez – The Theology of Migration

A Theology of Migration

Daniel Montañez, Director, Mygration Christian Conference

Main Text: Genesis 1:28 (NIV)

Big Picture: By framing a theology of migration through the Biblical narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, we see that God’s original intention for migration was to be a blessing.

Part 1: Creation

  • The call to migration is the first divine command from God.
    • The first mention of migration in the Bible to “fill the earth.” (Gen 1:28)
    • The verb “to fill” occurs 18 times in Genesis as an action to humanity and creatures.
    • The call to fill the earth is in the imperative tense representing the first divine command from God.
  • The call to migration is an intrinsic attribute of the imago dei.
    • Understandings of the Image of God (Gen 1:27)
      • Inherent – The will, intellect, emotions, spirit
      • Relational – Restoration of the imago dei through Jesus
      • Functional – The capacity to rule, create, movement
    • When babies are born, their hands, arms, and feet are set in motion. As they grow into infancy, they learn to crawl, walk, and eventually run. When the toddler experiences their first sensation of pain or danger, possibly placing their hand on a hot stove, their instinctual response is to move or flee from that feeling. The freedom to move is one of the most basic faculties of a human being.
    • The call to migration is an intrinsic attribute of the imago dei.
  • God’s original intention was for migration to be a blessing.
    • The purpose of migration was to bring glory to God, for the call to “fill the earth” would result in the spreading of His glory.
      • The Creation Mandate: God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…” Genesis 1:28 (NIV)
      • Tower of Babel: “So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” Gen 11:8 (NIV)
      • The Call of Abram: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen 12:1-3 (NIV)

Part 2: Fall

  • God’s call to migration moves from being a blessing to a curse. (Gen 2:23-24)
    • Adam and Eve’s disobedience leads to their deportation from the garden of Eden.
    • First recorded border/barrier on the earth.
    • The imago dei within humanity remains, however it is tarnished with the curse of sin and has lasting effects on the generations to come.
    • The call to migration remains, however sin has compromised humanity’s freedom to move. The entrance of sin into the world shows us that freedom does not only imply the freedom to move, but the freedom to stay. When a person cannot stay, they are no longer free.
    • Adam and Eve’s sin distorts God’s command to migrate to from a blessing to a curse.
  • The curse of migration in our world today.
  • Social/Structural Sins: war, violence, famine, poverty, persecution, political corruption, economic disparity, natural disasters, etc.
  • We see “59.5 million people are on the move as refugees or displaced people within their home countries around the world.”[1]
  • There is now a need for protection and borders in a post-fall world.
  • How then does one redeem a pre-fall view of immigration? Look to the redeemer.

Part 3: Redemption

  • Jesus redeems the world by restoring humanity to God.
    • The unmoved mover of the universe left the glory of eternity to reunite the children of God to their Father.
    • Jesus Christ did not come to build a wall, but a bridge between God and man; and He paid for it with his blood on the cross, so that we might have citizenship in heaven.
    • In Jesus we see God’s redemption for a displaced humanity. In redeeming us from sin, He became sin. In redeeming the call of migration, He became an immigrant.
    • The law of God is a reflection of the heart of God, therefore let us show the heart of God and fulfill the law.
  • Jesus redeems the world by coming as an immigrant.
    • As a child, an Angel commanded Joseph to “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matt. 3:13 (NIV)
    • As an itinerant preacher he preached, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Luke 9:48 (NIV)
    • As a prophet he knew, “no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” Luke 4:24 (NASB)
    • As a stranger, he said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in,” and “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matt. 25:35,40 (NIV)
    • The very act of God coming down from heaven is also an incarnation of the immigrant experience, redeeming the call of migration.

Part 4: Restoration

  • Jesus restores the blessing of migration at the ascension. (Matt 28:19-20)
    • After Jesus Christ conquered sin and rose from the dead, he gives his disciples one final command. GO. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” Jesus restores the divine imperative of migration as a blessing to all nations (Jesus).
    • Fulfillment of the blessing in the Abrahamic Covenant.
    • God restores the divine command of migration to bring glory to God and be a blessing to the nations through Jesus Christ.
  • The blessing of migration is restored through the spreading of the gospel.
    • The gospel message would not have spread if it were not for the missionary movements of Paul’s and the disciples across the Mediterranean.
    • In Acts 6:7, Luke says, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
    • This parallel verbs between Genesis 1:28 and Acts 6:7 asserts the restoration of the Divine Imperative in the Creation Mandate and the freedom of movement as a blessing.
    • Migration is restored as a blessing, and the vehicle in which God would use for humanity to spread the glory of the gospel.
  • Christ calls his disciples to be immigrants.
    • When Jesus says, “Follow me,” He calls YOU to life as an immigrant. He calls each and every person to live a life displaced in this world and live for a promised kingdom. This world is not our home, we are just passing through. Our temporary citizenship is here, but our permanent citizenship is in heaven.

Conclusion: In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel’s received the promise land they only stayed for a time. Shortly after, they were exiled to the Babylonian kingdom and forced to live a life of displacement from then on. The Promised Land was not meant to be fulfilled on earth, but in heaven. In the same way, this world is temporary, and true perfection of justice and peace is only possible when the eternal king, the one who is ultimately good, returns.


  • Let us loosen our grips of Christian nationalism, lest we forget to “Treat the foreigner as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Let us never get too comfortable, for this land is temporal. As Americans, we should proudly pledge allegiance to the flag. However, as Christians, we must pledge a higher allegiance to the cross of Jesus Christ.
  • Let us not be coerced by our capitalistic compulsions and instead make policy decisions that are beneficial to the global common good.
  • Finally, let us extend our hearts beyond our borders, care for the vulnerable whom Christ died to save, and live in the pre-fall blessing of migration.

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