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The verses in question, Leviticus 19:33-34, read: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. The stranger who resides with you must be to you like a native among you; you must love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am Jehovah your God.”
It’s crucial to interpret these verses in their original context before applying them to modern situations. The Israelites were under a theocracy, governed directly by divine laws given through Moses. These laws governed a specific people in a particular historical context, both civilly and morally. The “stranger” referred to was someone living among the Israelites and was expected to adhere to their laws, customs, and, to a large extent, their religious practices.
Scope of Law: This wasn’t a universal law applicable to all nations but was directed toward Israel under a theocratic government. So, to apply it directly to the U.S. or any modern state might be considered taking it out of context.
Following the Law: The stranger was expected to obey the laws of Israel. This is more akin to legal immigration, where a person must follow the laws of the host country. The text is not advocating for “open borders” without regulations or checks.
Conditional Hospitality: While the Israelites were commanded to treat foreigners justly, other parts of the Mosaic Law are strict about who can join the community. For example, certain groups were explicitly not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3-4).
National Security: The Bible also recognizes the importance of secure borders and national sovereignty. Cities in ancient Israel had walls and gates that were closed at nightfall. Even Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls for the protection of its inhabitants.
Role of Government: According to the New Testament, one of the roles of government is to protect its citizens (Romans 13:1-7). If a government determines that open borders pose a security risk, then tighter immigration policies would not necessarily be at odds with biblical principles.
Separation of Church and State: Lastly, while individual Christians are called to show compassion to strangers and aliens, this is not the same as dictating a state’s national immigration policy.
Therefore, while the Bible does call for kindness and fair treatment of foreigners, claiming that these verses demand an “open borders” policy for the United States significantly misinterprets Scripture. It takes these verses out of their original historical and cultural context and applies them in a way that wasn’t intended. It’s essential to consider the full counsel of Scripture, respecting both the original intent and broader principles when deriving applications for today.