Jesus taught that our attitudes and actions toward immigrants reflect our attitudes and actions toward him. In the Gospel of Matthew (25:35-46) Jesus said “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Stranger is the New Testament word for foreigner or immigrant. He makes this statement in a way that should be a wake up call to Christians.
His point is that how we treat immigrants is among the most important measures or our righteousness.
Those who heard his words were puzzled. They asked, “Jesus, when were you an immigrant, and when did we invite you in?”
Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.”
Then Jesus shifts his eyes to a group he refers to as “the cursed” and says “Depart from me...I was a stranger and you did not invite me in.” He condemns this group to eternal punishment but offers the previous group eternal life.
I don’t believe this passage teaches that deportation is always an act of evil, and I certainly don’t believe that all who disagree with me are bound for eternal punishment. But I strongly believe that Jesus is paying close attention to our attitudes toward immigrants, and that he considers our attitudes toward immigrants to be our attitudes toward him. We know this to be the case because he said so.
As our culture wrestles with how to fix our broken immigration policy, Christians should be mindful of the words of Jesus. We should insist upon an approach that treats immigrants the way we would treat Jesus.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”