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A Biblical View Of Immigration (With Joshua Arnold)

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Immigration is a tricky subject. Varying approaches have good points and valid concerns, leaving the issue without a simple answer. Like all challenging issues, though, it is critical that we base our opinions on Biblical truths.

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Joshua Arnold, Senior Writer at The Washington Stand, to discuss four Biblical principles to inform a Christian approach to immigration.

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Family Policy Matters
Transcript: A Biblical View Of Immigration (With Joshua Arnold)

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As the 2024 election season gears up, voters are consistently identifying immigration and the border crisis as one of their top issues. However, even people who agree that we should have a legal way of welcoming immigrants but at the same time have a secure border can vehemently disagree on the best ways to achieve those goals. Well, today’s guest recently wrote an article entitled Four Biblical Principles to Inform Immigration Policy to help Christians consider this important topic. Joshua Arnold is a staff writer for Family Research Council’s Washington Stand. Joshua Arnold, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

JOSHUA ARNOLD: Hi, happy to be here.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, well, not a simple question, but can you do your best to give us an overview on where we stand here in America on immigration, both legally and illegally?

JOSHUA ARNOLD: Sure, you began to touch on an important point that often gets overlooked there, which is that we do have laws on the books that allow a certain number of immigrants to legally enter the country every year. People can be granted a range of visas, from work visas to student visas to tourist visas. There are limits set on these, but I believe it’s somewhere over a million a year for nationals can enter the country legally. And obviously, we want to do our due diligence to make sure that we’ve checked these people out and make sure that they’re not a harm to our citizens and that sort of thing. We also have laws about how people are supposed to enter the country. They should come in at a legal point of entry, whether that is a border crossing or an International Airport. And they have to have the proper paperwork checked by the proper authorities to be allowed into our country. If people do not follow these procedures, then they’re in the country illegally. And if they crossed the southern border, for example, and they’re in the country illegally, then they’re supposed to be detained until their entire legal process is settled.

Now, we do have provisions for people over the numbers that we set forth. Essentially, in the asylum category, people who have been say persecuted in their home country for their religious beliefs, for example, could come to the US border and say, I am in fear of my life in my home country. Please let me enter the United States of America, the home of the brave and the land of the free. They should still be detained until their entire process is taken care of. Now, what’s happened over the past three years is most of that law has not been observed in the case of the southern border. So, the Biden administration has essentially instituted what’s called Catch and Release, where people are taken into the country, and then they are essentially released into the interior of the country until their court date, which could be many years into the future. So that’s caused a massive wave of people coming to this country to the point that many people are concerned about it, making it a top voting issue, as you stated. And that’s essentially the state of immigration policy, both legal and illegal today,

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Right, so why do you suppose people are so emotional about this? Because I just I would imagine that if you talk to most of the people that are listening to us, they would not have met a lot of immigrants, they may not have personally impacted their lives. What’s happening, that’s causing this to rise to the top as far as the issues that we’re concerned about?

JOSHUA ARNOLD: I’m not 100% sure; I think there’s several factors. One is different ideological reasons on both the right and the left. So you have people on the left who just are opposed to nations and borders in general. They don’t believe that these things are morally right. And so they think that we should let anyone in to our country that wants to come here. They are so opposed to our current law that they’re willing to flagrantly violate it, as opposed to just change it on the right. You have people who are opposed to people from other nations coming into our country for a variety of reasons, and they also can get pretty fired up about it. Then maybe in between there, there’s a lot of media-driven emotion, either media prompting fear or media prompting compassion for individuals’ stories, and that’s several reasons why people could get really fired up about this to the point that they stop thinking clearly.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, let’s talk about the four principles that you have outlined in this article, because I do think it’s important for us as Christians to say, you know, we need to go to the Bible to figure this issue out, not just listen to the pundants, whoever they are. We’re gonna go through each of the four principles, and if you could just briefly tell us what you mean by each of these. So, your first was that all people are made in the image of God. So how should this recognition inform our approach to immigration?

JOSHUA ARNOLD: Absolutely, right there, in Genesis 1, God created man in His own image. He later, in Genesis 9, establishes that as the reason why murder is wrong, and Christians have over the centuries extrapolated from this an idea of the Imago Dei. Essentially, man has an inherent dignity because he is made in the image of God; both male and female made in the image of God. Inherent dignity, that means we shouldn’t hurt other people, we shouldn’t oppress them, we shouldn’t steal from them, we shouldn’t exploit them or take advantage of them. This is often applied in the Levitical law to the categories of people who would be the most vulnerable in society and, therefore, the most likely to be taken advantage of.

So, widows and orphans are mentioned a lot because they didn’t have someone to support them in the agrarian economy. Sojourners are also mentioned a lot because, again, it’s an agrarian economy. You’re far from your homeland. You don’t own any land. You don’t have a means of supporting yourself. So sojourners would kind of be a biblical category that roughly maps on to immigrants, although not exactly. And the Bible says in Levitical law it instructs Israelites to care for the sojourners, you know, they were to be hospitable to them. They were to make sure that they weren’t oppressed, that they got justice in courts of law. And I think some of these principles apply to us today in the sense that we still know that man is made in the image of God. We should treat all people fairly and equally and not oppress them or take advantage of them.

Now, this is often applied to individuals rather than to the government. So, this is less a guide for government policy. Although it can have implications there but more a guide to individual behavior. How do we interact with people from other countries that we meet, whether they live in our neighborhoods or they work for a business that we interact with? We should treat them as a human being and not dehumanize them. Perhaps one implication of it to policy is we see these tragic stories of people taking horrible risks to cross the southern border away from ports of entry, swimming across a river and frigid December and January temperatures, and dying of hypothermia. You know, if we had a more humane immigration policy, we would discourage people from taking those risks to their own life. We should not be running a policy that puts people in the danger of being sexually trafficked by cartels, for example, or being exposed to the harmful effects of drugs. These are ways that this biblical principle should inform our immigration policy.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So, your second point is about sojourners, which you mentioned in your first point, but you say that we all are sojourners. What do you mean by that?

JOSHUA ARNOLD: This is maybe a little bit more nuanced of a point and not as emphasized in scripture. But in the law, we find places where God tells the people of Israel to care for the sojourner because they themselves were sojourners in Egypt. Now, we weren’t sojourners in Egypt in the same way that Israel was. So, it doesn’t apply directly to us. But we see later in the Old Testament, for example, in the Psalms, that we are all sojourners on this earth in a sense. So, for example, David writes, We are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were our days on earth are like a shadow and there is no abiding. In other words, this world is not our final destination at home. We’re just passing through, and in that sense, we’re all sojourners.

This is picked up in the New Testament as well. Peter, in his first epistle, talks about how we are strangers and exiles and sojourners. We will go to another place. This world is not our home, and so, in that sense, we are sojourners. So, applying the same principle that the Israelites were to care for sojourners because they were sojourners. You know, we know that we are vulnerable. We can try to be as safe and secure as possible, but we’re all vulnerable to disease and accidents, or unemployment. These things can affect us, and we should have compassion for other people whom they do affect and treat them as human beings.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Your third point now is that laws apply equally to all people.

JOSHUA ARNOLD: That’s right, looking through the levitical law, in addition to caring for sojourners, Israelites were also instructed in many places that the law also applies to sojourners. So this is both in the moral law and even in some ceremonial laws. Essentially, God gave laws to the people of Israel, and if other people wanted to live in their land among them, they had to follow the same rules. This applied to sexual ethics. It applied to observation of the Sabbath. It applied to other moral principles. It even applied to if an immigrant wanted to assimilate and join the people of Israel in worshipping their God, for example, Passover, they had to follow the same rules as normal Israelites. So I think it’s not too much to ask that if people come to our country, they should observe our laws. You know, those laws, are made laws because we think that they are just and that they should apply to all people. If people want to break the laws, then they should expect to be punished for doing so. One way this applies is when people across the border and they’re not at a point of entry, that’s a violation of our law. We think that is just to punish them for violating that law. If we thought that that law was unjust, we should change it. But as long as that law is in place, everyone should follow it. That applies to a native born and it applies to people who are not born.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And your fourth and final point is that the government’s primary responsibility is to protect.

JOSHUA ARNOLD: That’s right. Throughout the Bible, we see all different sorts of levels of authority. The Bible’s perspective is that authority is good. God gave it to us as a good gift. He created man to have dominion, and one feature of authority is to protect. So, a husband is supposed to protect his wife. Parents are supposed to protect their children. Pastors are supposed to protect the people in their church from false teachers and other wolves who would steal the flock. And most significantly, government has a duty to protect and make sure that the people under its care are provided for and kept safe. So we see, for example, that a wicked ruler is like a roaring lion or a charging bear, you know, a wicked ruler is a predator, not a shepherd. Jesus is the ultimate authority. He is the Good Shepherd.

So, the way this applies to our immigration policy is that a government’s primary duty related to immigration is to protect the people under its care, which are citizens. They have a secondary obligation to protect all human life, even of the people who want to come here. But its primary duty is to its own citizens to keep them safe from harmful actors. And it doesn’t take much imagination to imagine harmful actors who might come into our country, if we just say anyone can come and we’re not checking up on. You know, this could be foreign terrorist organizations who want to do Americans harm. This could be agents of foreign governments who are here to spy or steal or cause domestic disruption, or even violence. And this could be drug cartels that are smuggling harmful substances into the country.

So, the government has an obligation to protect us from these types of people. There’s a lot of people coming over the border right now, and it’s not nuanced enough to just say that it’s all families, or there’s a lot of these unprotected minors that we have to take care of. There’s a lot of people of all different types. They’re not all criminals, either. But we have to make sure that we know who’s coming over so that we can stop the criminals, and the government has a real obligation to protect us in that way.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: We’re about out of time. So talk about some other resources. If people are listening, and they’re thinking, I, you know, maybe I do need to dig a little deeper into this, where can they go?

JOSHUA ARNOLD: Well, you’re also welcome to check out anything on That’s the news publication of the Family Research Council, where we looking at news from a biblical worldview, where we can’t be censored by the mainstream media and their left-wing agenda. You know, you’re always welcome to go to the Bible. I encourage everyone to go there. The principles don’t always directly apply, but use wisdom and read the Bible and make sure that the things you believe are consistent with what the Bible says. There’s also a lot of other good sources out there. Center for Immigration Studies has done work and many other places as well.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Joshua Arnold, author of the article Four Biblical Principles to Inform Immigration, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

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