Christianity Today asked a group of contributors how, if at all, the Bible should inform what a nation expects of immigrants. This is one of five essays in the series.

Those of us who grew up in the evangelical tradition are all familiar with proof texting. Whether it’s about drinking alcohol, gender roles, or predestination, most of us have, at some point or another, cherry-picked our favorite verses from Scripture and used them as weapons against those with whom we disagree.

In recent years, few issues have become more subject to proof texting than illegal immigration. Those who favor amnesty point to the many Old Testament commands to welcome the alien and stranger in our midst; those who support deportation point to New Testament verses where Paul directs churches to obey the temporal authorities of the Roman Empire.

Although both sides may be driven by a desire to obey Scripture, proof texting and cherry-picking rarely, if ever, provide us with sound answers. If we truly want to honor God, we must take the witness of the entire Bible into account—starting with the very first chapter.

In Genesis 1, we learn that “God created mankind in his own image” (v. 27), which is the basis for the historic doctrine of the imago Dei. This belief that each person is made in God’s image establishes the basis of every person’s identity and has inspired generations of activists to defend human dignity.

As I reflect on the border crisis and how some of the most vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19 are immigrants working in essential jobs, I’m reminded not just of the individual aspect of the imago Dei, but of its communal aspect as well. God is a triune God—one who, from the beginning of time, ...

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