Cook: Immigrants matter to God |

Cook: Immigrants matter to God

Jeff Cook
For The Tribune

Jeff Cook

The Bible, taken as a whole, is a story of immigrants and refugees.

Following the Creation, Adam and Eve were banished from their homeland. Cain was sent into exile. Jacob, having cheated his brother, fled to Haran. Moses, having killed an Egyptian, escaped to the land of Midian and had a son while there. As an immigrant, Moses named his son Gershom, saying, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land," Exodus 2:22.

Of course, these few men and women were morally culpable for their flight. However, their lives are so valuable they make up most of the first five books of the Bible. Despite their failures, apparently their lives matter.

But not everyone who is an immigrant in the Bible is at fault. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in a foreign land. David fled from political danger into Philistia early in his life and fled from Absalom across the Jordan when he was old. Esther was an immigrant. Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and many others following the fall of Israel and Judah were minorities in foreign lands, susceptible to the political whims of their hosts. But their lives are displayed in the scriptures as those of heroism, worthy of understanding and reflection. Because apparently their lives matter.

Being an immigrant is a condition of life, and it is into these places the living God first articulated God's character. It is very difficult to name an Old Testament writer who was not a displaced person.

The primary story of the scriptures recounted to this day is the exodus. As Israel moved out of Egypt, it became a nation of exiles. To these immigrants, God spoke of a new vision for all the people on Earth. It is no coincidence the Hebrew Scriptures call God "a refuge" 95 times, for the Bible was primarily penned by refugees and their children.

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Friends, if we honor the Bible, we must note the Josephs, Gershoms and Davids of today fleeing lands torn by poverty, war, political unrest and instability, seeking refuge in the West. Many of us do not know these people personally, but they are part of our culture. They often slaughter the cattle we eat or pick our vegetables or clean our restaurants and office buildings as they seek to be safe, to contribute — as Daniel and Esther did — to invest what they have in a new home. And their lives matter.

But this year we have decided to make undocumented workers political bargaining chips. We have decided to make the same toxic mistakes of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries: assessing the value of human beings in exclusively economic terms. We have decided a man is valuable only insofar as that man promotes our national affluence.

This mistake is widespread. Our president has made it clear he "is worth $10 billion." The Bible tells us this is false. The president is worth vastly more than that, for the living God gave his only son for his redemption. As such, the president is a man who has unsurpassable worth. Those who call themselves Christians spit on the cross of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice our Lord made if we do not recognize our president holds insurmountable value.

But so do the hundreds of thousands of "Dreamers" who seek refuge in our land, whose lives parallel so many of those lives recounted in the scriptures, including that of Jesus.

Following his birth, the family of Christ fled from their homeland to a foreign place. They ventured across a desert to make a new life as immigrants in someone else's country (Matthew 2:13-23). In short, Jesus was a refugee. Jesus was an immigrant. Jesus was a displaced person, a child brought to someone else's country, a minority, a child susceptible to the political whims of his host. God apparently appreciates the lives of those taken to foreign countries as children so much God chose to live as one.

In foreseeing the final judgment, Jesus said he will say to those who are damned, "I was a stranger and you did not invite me in," and the damned will say, "When did we see you a stranger and fail to care for you?" And Christ will say, "Whatever you did to the least of these you did to me." And those who did not welcome strangers will become the ones exiled (Matthew 25).

Conversely, Christ will say to those remaining, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." And those who will inherit God's eternal life will say, "When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?" And the Lord will say, "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me." And they will find they not only occupy God's future, but have a diverse, everlasting family, as well.

We may rightly assume as we the people of the United States of America debate something as fleeting as how to fund a government, God wants immigrants to matter to us. God routinely tells us their story, honors their story and inhabits their story. At every step in God's revelation, immigrants matter to God. May God's heart become our own.

— Jeff Cook is the author of "Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes" and "Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Hell." He pastors Atlas Church in Greeley.

To help local immigrants

If you wish to do more for immigrants in our amazing city, there are numerous ways to help. The fine folks at the Immigration Resource Center of Northern Colorado do amazing work on behalf of those displaced. For more, go to