God created illegal immigrants in His image

by Jarvis J. Williams

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at 11:41 am

The Bible teaches that God created all humans in His image. Billionaire and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is currently under fire for his recent statements that illegal Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals—statements that offended both Latinos and non-Latinos.

Trump bluntly made three points. First, if elected president, he would be tough on illegal immigration. Second, illegal immigration is illegal, so those who have illegally entered the country are criminals. Third, some illegal immigrants committed crimes in their homeland, and some repeat those crimes once they’re on U.S. soil. Some of Trump’s critics agree with his positions on this controversial issue but point out that his offensive rhetoric eclipsed his message.

Trump is partly right. Illegal immigration is a crime. Those who illegally enter the United States should be brought to justice in accordance with U.S. law. The next president of the United States needs to be tough on illegal immigration. And some illegal immigrants have committed crimes here and at home. But Christians must not forget that God created illegal immigrants in His image, and they are not outside of God’s redemption in Christ. We should speak to, of, and about them in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1-2 teaches that God created human beings in His image and that humans are the pinnacle of His creation, and the creation account confirms these points with two narratives that highlight humans. God’s universal curse on the entire cosmos, humanity’s rebellion against God before God’s curse-pronouncements in Genesis 3, and God’s promise to redeem creation in Genesis 3:15 after sin entered the world support that the rebellion by humans against God greatly tarnished, but did not destroy, God’s image in them. Sin dominates and rules over the entire cosmos like an evil tyrant (Romans 6), and human beings willingly choose to sin (Romans 1:18-3:20). Illegal immigration is a sinful act.

But the New Testament reminds us that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead to unify all things and all people to Himself by reconciling them to God the Father and to one another (Ephesians 2:11-3:8; Colossians 1:13-15, 20). Illegal immigrants are included in those tongues, tribes, and nations created in God’s image (Revelation 5:9). Regardless of the politics and regardless of the political party, Christians must remember to consider illegal immigrants in ways that are consistent with the gospel.

American Christians also must never forget that we too are foreigners in this land, because our citizenship is ultimately in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In ancient days, Gentiles were separated from Israel, God’s chosen people, but the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22) brought them near. Today, all of us—Christians, Jews, and illegal immigrants—still have the opportunity to draw near.

Jarvis J. Williams

Jarvis is associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and the author of Christ Died for Our Sins: Representation and Substitution in Romans and Their Jewish Martyrological Background. Follow him on Twitter @drjjwilliams.

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