So far, we have been able to come up with a good set of Biblical principles about borders and those who cross them. If you have been following along here is what we have:
Principle #1: God Has Established National Borders to Limit the Spread and Impact of Sin
Principle #2: God Disrupts Borders and Displaces People So they Will Search For Him
Principle #3: In Eternity Nations Will Honor God
Principle #4: God Intends Us to Have Empathy for Some Immigrants
Today I will move on to look at two more words that the Bible uses to describe foreigners or immigrants to Israel. These two words are nakhri, and zwr.
By way of a review and reminder, last time we looked at ger. A ger was basically, a resident alien who embraced the Israelite culture and religion. By contrast a nakhri was a foreigner who maintained their ethnic and religious distinction while they remained in Israel. They were treated quite a bit differently than the ger. For example, Leviticus 22:25 reads, “neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner (nakhri). Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.” In other words, their animals were unacceptable for sacrifice. A nakhri was excluded from the Passover (Ex. 12:43). Also, while the debts of Israelites were forgiven every seven years, the debts of the nakhri were not (Dt. 15:1-3). Similarly, while it was forbidden to charge an Israelite interest on a loan, there was not prohibition of exacting interest from a nakhri.
Attitudes toward a nakhri were also quite different. A nakhri was generally viewed with suspicion (Ps. 144:7-11). Israelites were discouraged from marrying a nakhri (Ezra 9:2). They were even viewed as a threat to Israelite life and worship (Zeph. 1:8, Mal. 2:11).
The last immigrant/foreigner/sojourner to consider is the zwr. They were people who, like the nakhri, were maintaining their ethnic and religious distinctiveness while living in Israel. They were distinctive in that they were also reaping the benefits that could be had by living among the Israelites. God’s people were warned that Jerusalem was not to be defiled by them (Joel 3:17). They seem to be widely looked down on. In Ps. 109:11, Prov. 6:1, 11:15, 14:10 and 20:16 they are characterized as greedy property seizing creditors. Prov. 5:10 pictures them as outsiders who steal.
What seems to be the distinguishing feature among these foreign residents was their relationship with Israel. The ger, who fully embraced Israelite religion and culture were extended many more rights and privileges the others who, to one degree or another, worked to maintain their cultural and religious identity and were a threat. This is of course fully consistent with God’s covenant with Abraham. The blessings of God were extended to foreigners who blessed Israel, while God’s curse fell on those who even slightly disparaged His people (Gen. 12:3)
This leads us to, as you guessed, to more principles that might inform our discussion about borders:
Principle #5: Discerning the Motive and Intention of an Immigrant is Acceptable to God
Principle #6: Regulating the Privileges Extended to an Immigrant is Acceptable to God
As you may have noticed, these principles are derived from the Hebrew Scriptures. What, you may ask, about the New Testament? Well, in New Testament times both Jews (Jn. 7:35) and Christians (1 Pet. 1:1, 2:11) viewed themselves as foreigners. Jews, living in the land under the heal of Rome recognized that the dispersion was in some sense continuing. Christians recognized that this sinful world and evil age was not a home for them. The Kingdom of God, in other words, had not yet come. Nevertheless, Christians were to live with integrity, submit to governmental authority, be disciplined in their behavior, and help their fellow Christian sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11ff). Jews on the other hand had hardened in their attitude toward outsiders. The historian Tacitus wrote of the Jews that “they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies”. Josephus tells us that non-Jews were barred from the temple under penalty of death. No wonder God had to intervene directly to set Peter straight, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) Paul recognized that the border disruptions and the resulting displacement and immigration of people was ordained by God who determined the time and boundaries of all people so that some would be moved to seek Him (Acts 17:26-27).
So, what we find in the New Testament is that the Jewish nation, who were to have been a light to the world, had closed themselves off from the world. Christians on the other hand were to be an immigrant community in a volatile world who were welcoming people into the Christian community, the church, and helping them survive in a hostile environment and evil age.
Two more principles and then we are done:
Principle #7: The Message and Impact of the Gospel Knows No Border and is Stopped by No Prejudice
Principle #8: As Much as They Can, Christians are to Live Within the Laws of Their Country
To wrap up then, my goal has been to bring a distinctively Christian perspective to a volatile issue. The Bible knows nothing of a borderless world. In fact, since God establishes borders to limit the spread and impact of sin, we can say that the effort to eradicate borders is anti-God and ultimately satanic. The Bible also leaves no room for the xenophobic wholesale rejection of every foreigner who seeks to cross a border. Rather the Bible shows us that it is wise to discern their motive, understand their purpose, extend empathy, and sometimes grant some privileges and rights. What is needed in the discussion about borders and immigration is a God-centered perspective.