Our Dual Citizenship: A Christian Perspective on Immigration

By Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries

The issue of immigration divides Christians because they get confused about what it means to be a citizen and how we ought to express compassion.

Christians are citizens of two kingdoms. We are citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven and also citizens in the kingdom of man. Our dual citizenship is good for the world. We respect the government, but we don’t worship it.

In America, many people worship the federal government. They see it as the solution to every problem. “Such and such is not right,” they say, “the federal government ought to do something about it.”

Christians shouldn’t expect the government to solve all of our problems. Often government is the problem. Our founders understood this. That’s why the Declaration of Independence refers to “nature and nature’s God” as the measuring stick of justice—rather than the will of those in power.

The worship of government creates serious problems. As has been said, a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.

What does this mean for Christians when it comes to the immigration issue? As citizens of two kingdoms, Christians ought to engage in two ways. We ought to respect the Constitution and we ought to show compassion to people.

Respecting the Constitution

Other nations have different systems, but the United States is a Constitutional Republic. In this system, respecting the law means two things: upholding the Constitution and holding elected officials—and the bureaucracies they create—accountable.

In the United States, the Constitution requires the federal government to defend its citizens. In fact, it is the only thing the federal government is required to do. To fail in a basic aspect of this responsibility—providing secure borders—is like failing kindergarten. Nations cannot survive for long if they disrespect the simplest and clearest of their laws. As the British statesman Edmund Burke said, “Men of intemperate [lack of self-control] minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

Exercising Compassion

I’m amazed at how many Christians want to allow open borders and welcome vast numbers of refugees into the United States, but then demand that the federal government take care of them. I think that’s a wrong approach.

In Bible times, refugees (“aliens” or “sojourners”) were welcomed as long as they were willing to embrace the laws and moral code of the Hebrews. But every command regarding the care of refugees was a personal command. Each person—not the government—was required to act.

Good citizens never demand that their government undertake any responsibility that they themselves are unwilling to undertake. If you favor having more refugees, you must also personally take responsibility for providing housing and groceries and healthcare and jobs. If you demand sacrifice from others without making sacrifices yourself, you should not be taken seriously.

Recently I’ve faced a situation where I might need to act on behalf of someone caught in the immigration system. My action hasn’t been needed yet, but I am prepared to do two things. First, I have a list of government officials I am prepared to call to ensure that the person is treated fairly according to the law. Second, I have made arrangements to provide housing and protection to the person. I expect the government to uphold the Constitution. I do not expect it to exercise compassion on my behalf.

Being a citizen of heaven requires upholding the Constitution and also acting personally to show compassion to the downtrodden.