What does the Bible say about immigration?

Bryant Golden Blog

If you’re looking for the word “immigration” in the Bible, you won’t find it. You also won’t find the terms “immigrant” or “refugee.” But that doesn’t mean the Bible is silent on the issue. You will find plenty of references to “strangers,” “foreigners” and “sojourners” listed in the Bible. In fact, there’s actually a decent amount of information in the Bible relating to caring for those across borders. So, what does the Bible have to say about immigration? 

Modern-day strangers, foreigners and sojourners

Have you ever traveled or moved to another city, state, or country? If you can answer yes, you’ve probably been classified as a stranger, foreigner, sojourner or immigrant. The dictionary defines immigrant as “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.” While the Bible refers to transplants as strangers, foreigners or sojourners, here are some other words you may hear that describe those who have traveled to a new land:

  • Refugees — People who have been forced to leave their home for safety, typically due to war, natural disaster or persecution. 
  • Migrants — Those who have moved from one place to another to improve their living conditions are considered to be migrants. In many cases, migrants relocate because of work.
  • Visitors or tourists — Visitors, or tourists, are individuals who have traveled to a destination for the purpose of visiting for pleasure or as a sabbatical. 

How we treat immigrants is the same as how we should treat a visitor, according to the Bible. Jesus was considered a stranger and a foreigner. By today’s standards, He was considered to be an immigrant. So, how would you treat Jesus, the Son of God? That’s how you should treat other immigrants. 

How to love immigrants like Jesus

Christians, according to the Bible, have an obligation to show care to everyone, including immigrants. There are several examples of this in the Bible. Here’s what the Bible has to say about immigration: 

  • Invite strangers in How we treat people, including immigrants, directly correlates to how people perceive Jesus. If we are Christ’s disciples, we are called to invite immigrants in, according to the Bible.
  • Do not oppress foreigners or refugees — Don’t create a burden for those not from your area. Exodus 23:9 (NIV) says, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
  • Treat them with love — You’ve heard of “love your neighbor as yourself,” but have you heard of loving foreigners as yourself? Because that’s in the Bible, too, and it’s talking about immigrants. In fact, the Bible has a very pointed verse when it comes to how we should treat immigrants. It’s Leviticus 19:34 (NIV): “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” 
  • Include them in the community If you were displaced from your home or just had just recently moved, how would you have liked your new community to treat you? You’d want to be treated with kindness, love and respect. You’d want someone to clue you in to the ins and outs of your new residence — like the best places to get groceries, attend worship or who to call to babysit. Whatever you would have liked from your new community — do that and more. Go out of your way to show kindness. 
  • Show hospitality — Guess what — the Bible actually tells us to show hospitality to strangers, or immigrants. It’s actually mentioned a few times, but Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV) really hits home: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

The Bible says we’re all immigrants

Here’s the reality: If you’re a Christian, you are a stranger. You’re a foreigner on this earth because we are not meant for this place. We are meant to spend eternity in heaven. As believers, we all belong to the kingdom of God. Ephesians 2:19 (NIV) explains how we’ve been saved by faith in Jesus: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”

The next time you run into a stranger, foreigner, immigrant or visitor, consider what the Bible says and how we should treat our friends.