Last Monday night our churches — together with several other churches and organizations — co-sponsored an event at Bethel College called Evangelicals for Dreamers. While evangelicals are often equated with white conservatives who oppose immigration policies like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, our event belied this caricature.
We had a beautiful multicultural gathering of evangelical Christians from across Michiana who came to support our brothers and sisters here under DACA. We gathered to ask our elected officials to pass just, compassionate, and proportionate immigration policies as a natural expression of our evangelical faith.
Evangelicals believe that the source and norm for our beliefs and practices is God’s Word. And God’s Word is not silent on how we are to treat immigrants among us. From the Law to the prophets to the New Testament, the message is clear and consistent.
In Leviticus, God commands his people to treat “the foreigner residing among you … as your native-born” and to “love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (19:33–34). Likewise, through the prophet Zechariah, God commands his people to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” and to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (7:9–10).
In the New Testament, Jesus echoes these words by saying that when we welcome the stranger, we’re welcoming him (Matt. 25:35); and the book of Hebrews tells us that when we show hospitality to strangers, we might be welcoming angels unawares (13:2).
We aren’t naive about the distinction between the kingdom of God and the nations of this world. We don’t believe that the United States should be equated with God’s people, and we understand the need for nations to enforce their laws. At the same time, we regularly recite in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and we ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:10, 12).
We therefore believe it is our responsibility to ask our elected officials to “administer true justice” and “show mercy and compassion” to immigrants among us, especially those who were brought to this country as children. We believe that just legislation should be proportionate to the infraction committed. Those here under DACA have long ago paid their debt to society for the actions of their parents and now simply desire to continue contributing to society without constant fear of deportation. We thus ask our elected officials to pass a clean DACA bill that provides a pathway to citizenship and that isn’t tied to unrelated immigration issues like a border wall or a crackdown on family-based migration.
Such a policy is consistent not only with Scripture but also with evangelicals’ pro-family and pro-life convictions. For many DACA recipients, deportation means being torn away from the only family they know and sent to the unsafe conditions from which their parents fled in the first place. Since we believe that all human life is sacred, we cannot support policies that would endanger any human life. And since we believe that the bonds of family are sacred, we cannot support policies that would tear families apart.
Finally, as evangelicals, we believe the evangel — the gospel — compels us to compassion. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we were once “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” But, he adds, Christ “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (1:12–15).
We believe that were it not for God’s mercy, we would be excluded from citizenship and left without hope behind a wall of hostility. But since God has destroyed the barrier and set aside the regulations so we can be united as a family, we invite all people of faith or goodwill to join us in asking our elected officials to support a clean DACA bill that will welcome our immigrant neighbors to be included in our family as well.
Heather Ghormley is pastor of Tree of Life Anglican Church in Mishawaka. David C. Cramer is teaching pastor at Keller Park Missionary Church in South Bend.