January Prayer Partner: Turning to Scripture to Guide Us, Even on Immigration Reform

 In Prayer Partner

Dear friends,

If there’s one thing I have learned in three years of working with We Welcome, a faith-based advocacy initiative, it’s the reality that narrative drives policy. In other words, the stories we tell shape what we perceive to be true about the world, in turn influencing what we believe should happen in response. This collective story-telling and our resulting beliefs determine what we demand from our elected leaders. A foundational responsibility of civic engagement, then, is to ensure that the stories we tell are factually true. As Matt Soerens pointed out from the US-Mexico border this week, Christians have the added responsibility to tell stories that are morally true.

In a time where truth can be hard to find and even “facts” may seem biased or unreliable, God’s Word gives Christians a shared framework for operating in the world. Evangelical Christians agree that Scripture should guide our beliefs and actions in every realm of life. But does the Bible really have anything to say about immigration? This week I’ve been reading passages that are part of the I Was a Stranger Challenge, and the answer is yes! While Scripture doesn’t prescribe specific government policies, its narrative reveals that:

  • God’s heart is for sojourners. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Psalm 146:9)
  • The righteous society he envisions is one which ensures that foreigners receive equal treatment by society and law. (Leviticus 24:22, Numbers 15:15-16)
  • He commands his people, grounded in our spiritual identity as pilgrims, to live justly in relation to our immigrant neighbors. (Exodus 23:9, 1 Peter 2:11-12)

This month, the Evangelical Immigration Table sent a letter to presidential candidates from both parties, challenging them to spend 40 days reading these verses. The letters were signed by more than 500 evangelical Christians. Will you join me in praying that the candidates will accept this challenge, and that their perspectives on immigration will begin to be shaped by Scripture?

As we enter the 2024 election season, the nation’s attention has turned to my home state of South Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans will vote in presidential primaries next month. As campaign mailers fill my mailbox and ads cover my screen, I’m considering how election outcomes will impact my neighbors, many of whom are new to America. I’m also asking myself whether my own narrative about these neighbors is fully true in light of God’s Word. I have often focused on communicating the needs these neighbors have and my responsibility to welcome and serve them. Taking the I was a Stranger Challenge, I have realized that I must also speak of the ways my immigrant neighbors contribute to our community – economically, culturally, and personally. Often, they are the Good Samaritans my neighborhood needs.

This was highlighted for me on a recent rainy day. My home is just a couple of blocks from the elementary school my children attend, and most afternoons my neighbors and I walk to meet our kids at dismissal. But on this wet and dreary afternoon, most of us drove our cars as close as we could to the school and then walked across the street to get the kids. After the chorus of shouted greetings in multiple languages as the kids raced out the door, we all hurried back to our cars. In the parking lot, it occurred to me that one of my neighbors – an American single dad caring for two daughters – doesn’t own a car. The three of them were going to walk home in the rain. I turned to check on them only to find that another neighbor, a newly arrived immigrant father who doesn’t speak English yet, had already waved them into his car. The two families rode home warm and dry, the backseat filled with the laughter and smiles of three little girls. All of them experienced the beauty of community made even more lovely by the courage and grace it took for them to overcome the language barrier. I was blessed by observing this act of neighborly kindness.

The immigrant family who gave a ride to our mutual American neighbors that day are committed followers of Jesus and have quickly become involved in a local Spanish speaking congregation. There is more of Jesus’ love and more witness to his Gospel in our neighborhood because they are here. In a press call regarding the EIT’s challenge to presidential candidates this month, Mekdes Haddis of the National Association of Evangelicals (an Ethiopian-American and fellow South Carolinian) said, “A just immigration policy is a vehicle by which religious freedom is further practiced. For the beauty of God’s multi-ethnic church to be reflected to a divided world, the church must live out her call to redeem a people for Jesus from all tribes, tongues, and nations… Evangelicals here in South Carolina and across the nation want elected officials who will reflect Biblical principles as they speak about immigrants and advance urgently needed immigration reform.”

Mekdes is right. Immigrant families in our communities are displaying the beauty of God’s multi-ethnic church. As you pray – and vote – over the coming months, will you ask God to use his Word to renew the hearts and minds of our officials and candidates, church leaders and members, and of the nation as a whole? May he give us a Spirit-led, Scripturally-informed imagination to build a society in which immigrants are not just welcomed but equipped and invited to participate in the goodness of his Kingdom.

In Christ,
Laura Hornby
South Carolina Community Liaison for We Welcome

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