Romans 13:1-3 says:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
From this Scripture we could conclude the government’s role is to punish wrong and commend what is right. To that effect, some may argue, the Alvarado’s got what was coming to them. However, a positive statement of civil authority (such as Romans 13:1-3) is not logically or theologically restrictive of other activities. In other words, the fact that the Bible says positively that government has a responsibility to do “X” does not imply that the government can do “X” and “X” only in all situations.
Justice is only as good as the laws that define its boundaries. It would not be hard to come up with examples of unjust laws (Historic “Jim Crow” laws come quickly to mind, for starters). So no matter what our answers as a society are concerning immigration, Christians must realize that immigration is a process allowed (and at times initiated) by God and more importantly, immigrants are people. And people are not illegal.
To understand immigration from a biblical point of view, we must see how it operates throughout Scripture. For starters, we can think of the people of the world as one giant family — large, colorful, diverse . . . and dysfunctional! The Bible depicts a world of competing families, known as nations. The links that form these families are ethnic cultural groups, whose members share familiar origins and basics of culture such language, values, attitudes, and beliefs.
Throughout history we see a theme of struggle, discrimination, and conflict: one story after another of nations trying to advance their own interests over others. This struggle more times than not is what produces immigrants or refugees (i.e. someone not native to the local geographic area). The root of the struggle is found in Genesis 2, where we see God’s plan for unity in the Garden of Eden. Relationships were perfect between people and God, between people themselves, and with the environment. It was truly a blessed state of existence.
Actually, the word blessed does not accurately describe what was going on. A better word is a Hebrew one, shalom. Shalom means people living in a situation of completeness in every aspect of their human existence. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve experienced shalom. Their physical, social, moral, mental, and emotional needs were completely met. And their spiritual relationship with God was without filters — 100-percent pure. Theirs was a life with no worries.
Then, the familiar story of Genesis 3 tells of the moment when the whole situation of shalom unraveled, beginning the dysfunctional mess of a worldwide family we have today. By “mess” I mean the change that occurs in the personal character of humans, brought about by the willful disobedience of Adam and Eve. With their sin, God’s original intent for our world — to live in unity with each other and with Him — was violated.
The consequences of the Fall are instant: Confidence is replaced by doubt. Honesty is replaced by deception. Intimacy is replaced by shame. Fellowship is replaced by fear. In essence, we see barriers go up between Adam and Eve and between both them and God. And along with the barriers come hostility. God questions Adam, Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the snake.
Adam and Eve show here the first signs of human conflict and rebellion against God, a rebellion that continues to have far-reaching effects. In Genesis 3:15, God speaks to the evil being (represented by the serpent) who started it all:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
Traditionally, Genesis 3:15 is also interpreted as a foreshadowing of Christ’s eventual defeat of Satan. We know that Christ came to reconcile people to their God, to each other, and to creation. This verse foretells how our world will be in continual conflict between humans and representatives of evil. The battle lines have been formed, and the world from now until Christ’s return will struggle in a messy conflict. And more times than not, what drives people to our shores are by-products of these conflicts.