Online Conversation | Hospitality to Strangers with M. Daniel Carroll Rodas

In the midst of our heated contemporary geopolitical debates over immigration and refugee policy, it is all too easy to forget that the challenges around migration are as old as human sojourning, and the Bible speaks directly to the faithful about our orientation to and care for the strangers in our midst, with story after story about caring for the sojourner and extending hospitality to strangers.  How do those texts speak into our current realities – and how does our own experience inform our encounter with Scripture?

Wheaton College Old Testament scholar and author of The Bible and Borders: Hearing God’s Word on Immigration, Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, joined us on Friday, June 23, to explore these questions. We considered how the Biblical story helps us understand questions around refugees and migration in the modern world, and how these realities can help us more fully appreciate the depths of the Biblical text.

The Trinity Forum and Restoration Immigration Legal Aid held an Online Conversation with Daniel on June 23 to discuss the biblical call to care for the sojourner.


Recommended resources:

Restoration Immigration Legal Aid

The Evangelical Immigration Table

The National Association of Evangelicals

World Relief

Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang

Seeking Refuge by Stephen Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir


Online Conversation | Daniel Carroll Rodas | June 23, 2023

Cherie Harder: Welcome to all of you joining us for today’s Online Conversation with Daniel Carroll Rodas on “Hospitality to Strangers: Caring for Immigrants and Refugees.” I’d like to thank Restoration Immigration Legal Aid and their stellar team over there, along with Restoration Anglican Church, led by Reverend David Hankey, for their generous sponsorship and co-partnership with us in hosting today’s Online Conversation. We’re so grateful for your work and for your support. And we’re delighted to welcome more than 1,200 registrants for today’s conversation. And we’d like to especially welcome our more than 140 first-time registrants, along with our nearly 200 international guests joining us from at least 35 different countries that we know of, ranging from Belgium and Brazil to Singapore and South Africa. So if you haven’t already done so, let us know in the chat feature where you’re joining us from. It’s always really fun for us to see the range of people from all over the world joining us from across the miles and time zones.


If you are one of those first-time registrants to this event or are otherwise new to the work of the Trinity Forum, we seek to provide a space to engage the big questions of life in the context of faith and to offer programs like this Online Conversation to do so and to come to better know the Author of the answers. We hope today’s conversation will be a small taste of that for you today.


Our topic today is one that can often generate more heat than light, as often questions about how we should treat, think about, and care for the migrants in our midst often devolve into partisan debates over immigration policies and politics. Our hope today is for a very different kind of conversation, one that is both more rooted in biblical story and teaching as well as more practical for everyday life. After all, while relatively few of us who are here have direct responsibilities in the realm of immigration policy, all of us live in a world of unprecedented levels of displacement, where nearly 300 million people live as migrants due to war, poverty, persecution, or seeking a better life. So we’ll assume at the outset that thoughtful people of good faith can arrive at different prudential decisions over the important questions around our national borders, or enlarging or narrowing pathways to citizenship, or the role of government in either extending or curtailing services. And there’s certainly quite a few forums for those discussions.


We hope instead to offer a forum to think faithfully about a different set of questions, ones that are often crowded out or shouted down amid partisan rancor. That is, how do we think faithfully about loving the displaced neighbor in our midst? What does the biblical injunction to extend hospitality to strangers mean in our modern context? And what might we learn from the experience of the sojourner in better understanding what it means to belong in Christ?


These are complex and challenging questions, and certainly there aren’t any easy answers. But it’s hard to imagine someone who has wrestled with them with more scholarly erudition as well as deep personal experience, than our guest today, Dr. Daniel Carrol Rodas. Danny Carroll is the Blanchard professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School and previously served as distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary, as well as teaching for 13 years at the El Seminario Teologico Central Americano, an evangelical seminary in Guatemala City. He holds a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the University of Sheffield, both with degrees in Old Testament, and has authored a number of books, including The Lord Roars: Recovering the Prophetic Voice for Today, various commentaries on the Old Testament, and The Bible and Borders, which we’ve invited him here today to discuss.


Danny, welcome.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, thanks for having me. It’s good to be here and to see you again.


Cherie Harder: It’s great to see you as well. So I always like to start with the story behind the story. And you certainly have a very interesting one. You mentioned early in your book that it was actually the realities of life in Central America that first ignited your fascination with the Old Testament, which led to both Old Testament scholarship and then eventually this book. How did that happen? How did the realities of life in Central America lead you to become a biblical scholar?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, it actually all begins with the fact that I’m half Guatemalan. My mother was a Guatemalan immigrant, married my father. So I was raised in Houston. But we would go to Guatemala every summer, and sometimes family would come up from Guatemala and spend time with us in Houston. Our neighbors for 11 years in Houston were my mother’s younger sister and her husband, both Guatemalans. And so that was when I began to see life that made the Old Testament come alive, because the things the Old Testament would talk about, I would see in Latin America. And then I taught there, which you mentioned—you’ll have to work on your Spanish accent a little bit—in Guatemala City for 13 years. And that is where, you know, you hit the issues of poverty. I was there during the time of the civil war. So issues of ethics. And so this is where my interest has been for many years is Old Testament ethics.


When we moved to the United States, back to the United States, is when I began to engage the immigrant question, because it is about ethics and because of my Guatemalan background, I got involved with Latino churches and pastors in Denver. We started a Spanish language program in Denver. And probably 95 percent of those who would come to classes were undocumented. And so now I began to process all of that, and I wondered what would it be like biblically? And I didn’t know. And so that started that journey and leads to the book and other books that I’ve done on immigration.


That’s kind of a 30,000 foot [view] or whatever it would be, 30,000 feet in the air, kind of synopsis of how I got here. So I’ve been involved with Latino churches now for about 13, 14, 15 years, speaking on this for a long time. So there’s a human face to it, not just an academic subject.


Cherie Harder: One of the things that struck me is right at the outset of your book, you argued that the essential starting point for any discussion, any faithful discussion, around immigration is the idea of the imago Dei. Why is that?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, sometimes when I’ve talked to Christians, they will want to go to Romans 13 and they’re asking the legality question, which you have to get to, obviously. But what I tell them is, you know, in my Bible, Romans 13 is about page 1,000. Why don’t we go to page one and let the beginning of the scriptures begin to define how we move into these discussions? And instead of beginning with legalities, you begin with our humanity. And once you do that, you begin to change the tone and even the direction of the discussion. So that’s why I think it’s important.


And one other thing I think is important to underline is that the imago Dei will tell us that every human being has a lot of worth. And everyone kind of knows that, at least conceptually. But there’s another piece that people miss, which is important for the discussion, and that’s this: We’re told that we can rule and subdue the earth. This is actually our mandate. So what you’re talking about is not only human worth, now you’re talking about human potential and gifting. So that can change the discussion as well. So you’re not only giving these immigrants worth, but you’re also appreciating the many things that they can bring to actually further the national good. So now you’re seeing them not as a weight, but as contributors. Now you begin to appreciate what they can bring into national life, whether it’s work or issues of education and many other things. And we can see it today. I mean, this country really cannot function without its immigrant population. So I think that’s another piece that comes out of Genesis chapter one.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. You know, when you talk about dignity, one of the things that I think strikes anyone who watches the news is some of the language that’s used around immigration. And, of course, the words we use affect the way we think. It’s very difficult to have a thought for which you don’t have a word, and repeated usage of certain terms can also even sort of subconsciously reinforce certain beliefs. And one of the things that’s been striking is whatever one thinks about certain policies, there’s a language often of either the bestial or the language of enemies that’s often used, whether it’s “invasion,” “infestation,” “swarming.” And so I would love to get your thoughts about the words then the language we use around immigration. And how does one think faithfully about the language one’s used to describe displacement and immigration and migration, not only within our country, but globally?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah. No, that’s good. There’s two kinds of language. One is the kind of formal legal language. So that would be— and these are actually different legal categories in our immigration system and any immigration system around the world. Immigration or immigrants is one category. Refugees is another category. And asylees is another category. So each of those have different legal definitions and different pathways of entry. So one thing is that most people aren’t even aware that those are actually different categories with different processes. 


But on a popular level, not on the kind of formal legal level, the popular level, what you’ll hear is “illegal alien.” That would be kind of a common term. And the “alien” piece, what I would tell people is, so when does the alien become a human being? You see, because when we think of aliens, we think of outer space and Star Wars and things like this. But what we’re saying is that person is different. That person is not us. That person is an outsider and other. So that’s not a helpful term. The other part of that phrase, “illegal,” again, if I were to ask people, so if you use that term, that means you know how the system works and how that happens. And most people have no idea how the American system works, which is another discussion. And it’s kind of pejorative because it already is kind of branding them with the idea that they’re lawbreakers. And maybe in a technical sense, a number of them are. But if we can move the pejorative tone and say, well, they’re illegal in the sense they don’t have a certain paper in hand. So that’s why I prefer “undocumented.” “Undocumented immigrant”—that’s really a better and a saner and I think a more just kind of way of referring to those who come without documents. And of course, not all of them do. But that’s kind of the popular pejorative term that you hear in some of our media.


Cherie Harder: You had mentioned earlier in your work that we often think about immigration, especially in America—. Now, we certainly have people, well, from 35 different countries, at least, we know of watching, but that it’s actually a quite complex the global migration that is happening, in that, you know, we are fortunate enough in the United States that people are trying to get in as opposed to out. But there’s a lot of complex migration patterns going on around the world. And we’d be interested in hearing you say a little bit more about that.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah, I mean, we can talk about what’s happening in Ukraine. I read this morning—I’ve been following the war—14 million displaced Ukrainians. 1 million have gone into Poland, over a million have gone into Germany, and 8 million have left the country. I mean, so that’s a massive migration issue. I have friends—and I’ve been there, too, but it’s been several years ago—in Columbia, South America. Because of the war, internal war, they have 8 million internally displaced, and they’ve also taken on a couple of million people who have left Venezuela, which is the country next door.


So what you’re seeing is not only migration to the United States, but even within Europe in the millions, because of the war. In South America, because of several conflicts and some fleeing governments in Bolivia and in Venezuela. I was in Argentina three years ago, in Buenos Aires, and what you find there, the cheap labor—if I can call it that—would be people from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay. And so what you’re seeing is the migration is happening all over the place and going in all kinds of directions because of poverty, looking for jobs, or fleeing war, or drastic climate change. That’s a discussion coming out of Africa. But what you’re seeing, what we’ve never seen before, is the numbers. The history of the world is the history of migration. But now they estimate, the United Nations estimates, that we have about 270 million people that have left their homes and are migrating, whether internally or outside of their countries. And that’s a massive number that every country in the world is having to deal with, either as a host country or a country that’s having people leave.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. You know that 270 million number is really rather staggering. And you raise an interesting question in your book that I’m going to sort of turn back and ask you. And that question was, in a world with 270 million people on the move, what does it mean for the church? You know, we our conversations tend to be about what it means for our nation and what it means for our politics. But with that many people on the move globally, what does it mean for the church and its mission?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: That is a great question because when people ask me, what shall we do? I ask them, who is the “we”? Are you talking about the US government or are you talking about the church? And those are really two different discussions. So I thank you for mentioning that.


When I talk about this, when I speak in the book and other things I’ve written, is I think the first thing for people to realize is that migration is part of the experience of the people of God from Genesis until Revelation. The father of the faith, Abram, is a migrant. He leaves Ur of the Chaldees. He goes up to Haran, which would be on the Turkish-Syrian border today, hundreds of miles. And he goes hundreds of miles down into Canaan. So what you have is the father of our faith is actually a migrant. And the charge to be a blessing to the nations is being given to a migrant. Most people don’t even think about that. And so what I try to do is begin to walk them through all the various Old Testament stories, especially, of migration. And even when you get into the New Testament and how the early church grows in the Book of Acts, it’s multiethnic, multicultural, displaced peoples. That’s the early church. And then when you get to Revelation, there’s John, a forced exile on the island of Patmos, writing the last book of our Bible. I mean, so it just covers the whole Bible. So I think that’s the first thing that we need to begin to realize. 


And then if we are called to be a blessing to the nations, this will involve being a hospitable people. And so this is what you find in the Old Testament. It’s actually an Old Testament law. All these rules and regulations about receiving outsiders. And then when you move into the early church, they are supposed to be a people where there is neither Jew nor Greek. But you see the tensions between ethnic groups in the Book of Acts and in the Epistles. So it’s not an easy process to receive those who are unlike us. But that is the story of the people of God.


And one last piece: I’m condensing everything really tightly, but migration becomes a metaphor for being a Christian. You see this, an easy one would be in 1 Peter, where it says that we are strangers in a strange land. The problem with us sometimes is that this land doesn’t seem so strange anymore. We kind of like it, and we want to keep the strangers out, or at least at arm’s length. But this is a strange place, and this country is getting stranger all the time. And so what it means to be a Christian will not only be in terms of certain kind of ethical issues that are percolating around the country, but also how we receive those from other places that the country may reject or cast a veil of suspicion on. But this should be the hallmark of a strange people accepting strangers into their midst because God is a God of all the nations. So it’s a long discussion of how to do that. And that’s a separate discussion, maybe for another time. But that would be kind of the moral compass, the spiritual guideline, I think, that we need to begin to unpack a little bit more than we have.


Cherie Harder: Yeah, well, there’s a lot to unpack there, so we’ll unpack it, I guess, starting you talked about the the law of hospitality, the very clear and repeated biblical injunction to hospitality towards the stranger in the Old Testament. Obviously, that was a different context than our modern one. But what did it mean in that time to love the stranger? How was that injunction understood?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yes. One of the interesting things when you get to Old Testament law, when it sets out the rules for receiving the foreigner, it keeps saying, “And you were foreigners and you were slaves in Egypt.” And so they know—Exodus chapter 1—they know what it’s like to be an exploited foreign population. And so when God gives them the law, he says, “Don’t ever forget that. Don’t forget where you came from, because that’ll help explain why I’m doing this in grace for you.” And part of the issue in this country is that we have forgotten our history. So, for instance, my father was the son of Irish immigrants. So you have the Irish ghettos in New York City and Boston. The Italians. The Asians. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first national law on immigration, and it excluded the Chinese from 1882 to 1943. So we have forgotten all these kind of complicated stories.


But God says to his people, don’t ever forget that once you were foreigners. And because of that, you need to be gracious to the foreigners who come to you. And so what you find in the Old Testament are laws about food. A law about work: they’re not supposed to take advantage of foreign labor, supposed to pay them a fair wage and pay them on time. You can see how that could apply. They’re even said to allow them into their religious ceremonies, which was the most precious piece of their culture. And they were to allow the foreigners in to participate and have a chance to respond to the God of Israel.


So I think those are the kinds of things—. We can’t imitate Old Testament law. I mean, this was for an agrarian society thousands of years ago, but the underlying moral principles and the motivations, I think they continue throughout the scripture. At the end of our time, you said, I’ll have a final word and there is a passage that I want to read that will encapsulate it because it will ground the love of the foreigner in the person of God himself. So what you find in the Old Testament is their treatment of the foreigner becomes a litmus test of the quality of their faith because, you know, we’re to love our neighbor. This is Leviticus 19. So when Jesus says it, he’s quoting the Old Testament. But then in that same chapter, chapter 19 of Leviticus, verses 33 and 34, he says, “You’re supposed to love the foreigner as yourself.” So that’s another one, right? We have a hard time liking our neighbors when they’re like us. But liking the foreigner and loving the foreigner is a whole other thing. But that becomes the demand upon Israel. If they’re to be a blessing to the nations, they need to welcome the nations as well. So if we want to talk about Christian mission and Christian missions in the plural, that goes to the nations, well, we also need to think about, well, accepting the nations as part of us. It’s the flip side of that coin.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. So bringing the Old Testament into the modern day—I’m putting you a little bit on the spot here, but I’m sure you have thought a great deal about this—what does this look like in our current times and how in particular do you try to live out that injunction?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Oh, wow. That’s another good—. You’ve got great questions. I would say this: the Old Testament doesn’t give us a blueprint for policy. I mean, it can’t. It was written for another time, another place. But what it does, it offers us a moral compass. I think that’s the key. So we would go to the Old Testament and look for certain ideas that we would need to flesh out. So again, if you’re talking about church policy, that’s one thing. If you’re talking about national policy, that’s something else.


But let me give you an example. There’s something called the Evangelical Immigration Table. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of that. And it’s just But they offer resources, videos, books, articles. There’s a network. There’s a lot of ministries now that are reaching out to immigrants, a lot of refugee services. So I think if you’re talking about Christian mission and living out Christianly as churches, there’s things that churches can do. There’s things where churches come together. There are mission agencies in this country that work on this. So there’s all kinds of options of involvement if we just begin to look. And again, like I said, if you want to talk about US government policy, that’s another thing. The US government does not have the mandate that the Christian church does, and so it’ll go in a different direction. They have different priorities and different reasons for doing what they do, which are very different than what it means to do this as the Christian church.


Cherie Harder: You know, I can see some people listening and thinking, you know, the Bible has very clear injunctions about hospitality, but it’s also clear about following the law. And there are many immigrants who are in the country legally or as a refugee or are kind of awaiting legal status. But there are also undocumented immigrants who came here illegally. And there are people who may feel some understandable tension between how do I essentially show love of neighbor, but not in a way that enables or encourages or makes it easier to break the law? How do you think about that tension and what counsel would you give?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: I get that question all the time, naturally. And really there are several ways to respond to it. The first thing I ask people—and we don’t have time to do this—but “tell me what you know about US immigration law.” Now, normally they know nothing. They just assume because it’s an American law, that it must be good. And it isn’t. Both parties are recognizing that it doesn’t work. It’s outdated. And it can’t handle the kind of numbers that we’re seeing globally. So the first thing is to get people to realize that US law may be bad law. It may be inefficient, which it is; it may be outdated, which it is. And people need to begin to realize in this country we have elections and we change laws all the time. That’s why we elect the officials that we elect or we vote them out of office because we don’t like their laws. And so one thing is, do you know US law? Most people don’t. Do you know the history of US law and how we got to where we’re going? Most people don’t know.


And here’s the other thing that people don’t realize is that US law is about entry. And once you are in without documents, there is nothing under current US law that you can do to get your status normalized. The only thing in current US law, because it doesn’t contemplate you coming in without documents, is deportation. So when you have 11 to 12 million people whose mean stay in this country is now over a decade, who are now embedded in our schools, in our workplace. And the only option for 12 million people is deportation. You can see it’s just not going to work, let alone handle what’s going on at the border. So you begin to see that the first thing I would say is let’s have a legal discussion. Tell me what you know and let me tell you what actually happens.


The other thing that I would say is—this is kind of going back to the Book of Acts, even though I’m an Old Testament guy—but the apostles will say, when they’re taken before the Jewish authorities, “We will obey God before we obey you.” And so that becomes the question, and the hard question: What can the Christian church do, even if it means helping those who have not followed the law? Because they can’t, and US law actually will not allow them to, but they have families or they’re sick or they’re fleeing violence of all kinds. And now you’re having a different kind of Christian conversation about compassion and hospitality and letting the government sort out the legal pieces. And the nice thing about US law right now anyway, is that the law doesn’t prohibit Christians from involving themselves in the lives of immigrants, which is nice. So even though there’s things going on in the border, that’s a complicated discussion, the US law at the present time—though, some states are trying to change this and have tried to change this—they’re allowing Christians and churches to get involved with undocumented immigrants, which I think is part of our mission. We are supposed to help the vulnerable, and they are a very vulnerable population.


Cherie Harder: Switching gears a little bit, one of the points you made in your book that I hadn’t really thought about before is that the Old Testament and the Bible gives not only an injunction to the native born to extend hospitality to the stranger, but also does give some guidance for the migrant. You mentioned the book of Jeremiah where Jeremiah encourages the exiles, the Jewish exiles, to invest in the land that they are now in. And I would love for you to elaborate a little bit more about the guidance and counsel that the Old Testament gives not just to the native born, but to the migrant.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah, you know, I would take that back to Genesis 12: the people of God are called to be a blessing to the nations. Well, the people of God are on the move. And we actually have in this country millions of undocumented Christians. And most people don’t realize that every major denomination in the country and the Catholic Church are holding their numbers because of immigrant churches. So what we find is that now God, in his divine wisdom, is actually building his church in this country through immigrants. I go to a Latino church on Sunday afternoons and most of the people there—and it’s a large church for Latino churches, maybe about 800 people—most of them are going to be undocumented. But there they are worshiping. There they are. The church has once a year they have a service week where they go around that part of Chicago helping all kinds of schools, widows, all the kinds of things they can do to help in physical ways people in need. And these are the undocumented immigrants. They are evangelizing. They’re planting churches. So I think what you’re seeing is Genesis 12 being lived out by Christians irrespective of their legal status.


The other thing that I would say is this: even in our conversation, our conversation is directed to those who are not immigrants. I would guess most of your audience is not, and most of your audience would be native born. But if you begin to see that the Bible also is speaking to an immigrant people who are actually immigrants themselves—. And when I speak to Latino audiences, for instance, I’m telling them the stories of the Old Testament. These are their stories. Now what they begin to see is they need to live out their faith as the people of God, even as those in the Old Testament did. You see? So now it’s a conversation around Genesis 12, not about being hospitable necessarily as the host and native born, but now doing mission where God has placed us in the United States. And I see that all the time. I’ve had Latino pastors tell me God brought me to this country to re-evangelize it. That’s fascinating way of looking at it.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. So time is running away from us and there’s lots of different questions. But before we turn to audience questions, I have to ask about one thing that you alluded to, which was sojourning as a metaphor of our faith and one that’s brought up repeatedly in the New Testament, too. And I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that. But also, as both a biblical scholar and an immigrant yourself from Guatemala, how did your experience of being a sojourner shape your own understanding of your faith?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Because I’m what is called a “third culture kid,”—you know, a foreign mother and a native-born father—I was raised bilingual, bicultural. So I speak Spanish, have since day one. There is a sense of being a stranger, being the perpetual foreigner. Even though I’m a citizen and spent most of my life in this country, I still feel different. So when I go to the Latino church and have Latino students and we’re speaking Spanish, there’s something in me that resonates with that. So that’s part of my experience and it’s the experience of millions of people. I see it here at Wheaton College. I mean, I see it with college students from mixed families like mine or immigrant families. There’s a sense of being strange. And the pressures to conform and to leave what is dear to them. So, you know, when you come to this country, this is part of the process. You negotiate loss. Most people don’t think about it this way, but you’re negotiating loss of your language, the loss of your customs, of how you do family, of how you do birthdays, of how you do Christmas, of how you bury the dead. The songs that you sing, the language of your heart, how you greet one another—all these are being negotiated away constantly. And I think that’s part of the strangeness that the foreigner feels.


And I have felt that when I lived in Guatemala, even though I’m half Guatemalan and spent time there growing up. You know, I was still kind of the outsider because I’d come as a professor to a seminary, but I went as a missionary. So then I come back to this country and now I’m this half-Guatemalan on this side of it. I mean, so there’s this constant sense of never being home. I think that’s the sense. And I think that’s why the New Testament will pick up that kind of metaphor, because that’s really it: We’re never home. We shouldn’t be. We’re never home because we’re citizens of another country. And home is the church. And home is after we die and we’re with the Lord. That’s our true home. So I think that’s the kind of metaphor that needs to get unpacked more than it has.


Cherie Harder: Yeah. Well, I see a lot of questions have come in, so we’re going to turn to questions from our viewers. And one of the first ones comes from an anonymous viewer, and they ask, “Given the so-called separation of church and state in America, how do you recommend making Judeo-Christian arguments for caring for the immigrant and refugee in terms that would persuade non-Jews and non-Christians? Are we limited to the pragmatics of immigration, or is there a place for making explicit our religious obligations to care for the stranger amongst us? Does the stranger have to be legal or documented? Or may we add undocumented immigrants in service of a larger divine justice?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: It’s a long question.


Cherie Harder: It is a long question.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah. No, I would say the Christian church needs to do what it can do irrespective of the government. I mean, so, as I mentioned, if you just go to even, I mean that’s the beginning. But there’ll be all kinds of ministries that one can get involved in locally and nationally, whether legal aid, whether food closets, whether medical clinics being housed in churches. I mean, there’s all kinds of things that one can do. So we don’t need to wait for the government to do that. So that’d be the first piece.


The other piece was, do they have to be documented? The answer is no. I mean, Christian ministries are not asking legal questions. They’re checking on the vulnerability of these people. So I think that would be the way I would answer. Just begin to look and you’ll find there’s a lot more going on than you can imagine. And maybe, if you’d like, just for the people who chime into your blog and webinars, I can send you a list of some that maybe you might want to post. I could send you a a list of some resources as well if you’d like, and that might help some people as well.


Cherie Harder: Great. So another question is this one: “Israel in biblical times was a very distinct society and they were commanded to be hospitable, but not to actually incorporate foreigners into the nation. How should we think about that in our American nation of immigrants context?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, I think if I’m understanding the question, it’s actually incorrect. That was the whole thing about receiving the foreigner into ancient Israel. There were expectations of the foreigner. There would be the expectation of learning the language, following the rules, we would say. And you actually see this in a couple of ways. For instance, there would be a periodic reading of the law publicly, and it specifically says that the foreigner is supposed to be there. So what you’re seeing is why does the foreigner have to be at the reading of the law? Well, so they can learn the law and know what to do.


The other thing that’s interesting is in the Old Testament, there’s actually different words for the foreigner, different labels, depending on if the foreigner is actually interested and committed to being incorporated into ancient Israel. There were some that we guess we’re not. And so there’s a different label for them. So there’s this realism in the Old Testament. And, I mean, I could give you a number of foreigners. I mean, here’s one—it’s a tragic one—real fast. I mean, I don’t want to get off on stories or I’ll speak too long, but it’s like Uriah the Hittite. Loyal to David, one of David’s mighty men. He’s a Hittite. And his name, Uriah in Hebrew, means “God is my light,” or “Yahweh is my light.” So he converted to the faith of Israel, is committed to the king, is actually one of his what we would call bodyguards. And the king sets him up because he’s taken his wife. I mean, so what you’re seeing is the betrayal of the foreigner who’s actually very incorporated even into the palace itself. I mean, so the idea that the foreigners were not incorporated when these laws were designed to do that very thing—I think to say otherwise is actually incorrect.


Cherie Harder: Another question asked the following: “A lot of texts you’re discussing are from the prophets, but nowadays many people don’t want to hear that kind of prophetic voice. How do we talk about these things in a humble way that won’t turn people off?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, technically, I’ve been talking about the narrative, so that’s not the prophetic literature. Actually, the prophets don’t speak very much about foreigners directly because they are living as foreigners in exile, a lot of them. So they’re not talking about the foreigner. They are the foreigners. But in the narratives is where you find a lot of the stories.


I think if we’re to speak to others about Christian commitments, first of all, we need to know what those are. And a lot of us don’t know. But I think actions speak louder than words. And so I think as we get involved, it’s not only a testimony to the nonimmigrant culture, it’s a testimony to the immigrants themselves. There is something—this is another discussion—but something called diaspora missiology. And that’s the idea that God has sent people worldwide—into this country, all these people coming in and now planting churches and evangelizing. But the flip side of it is that God has brought the world to the United States. So I saw this morning, when I was talking about the Ukrainian crisis, the US has accepted 270,000 Ukrainians since the war. Well, that’s a mission field. We have people from all over the world coming in that we can reach out to in Christian witness. So it’s not only a witness to the broader culture, but also a witness to those who have come. And I think as we do those things and do it in the name of Jesus, that that will be a testimony in and of itself. And if we can speak truth to power in terms of our moral compass to the authorities, that might be helpful as well.


Cherie Harder: Another question from our viewers who ask, “I understand the Old Testament is your primary focus, but what are some of the key passages on this topic from the New Testament in their descriptions of the early church?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, actually, I would begin with Jesus himself. Jesus, as a baby, they have to flee to Egypt. We might call them refugees. I have a book—this over here is all my kind of immigration stuff—but I have a book called Jesus the Refugee. The interesting thing about that book is it processes Jesus and his family according to current refugee law. And they say that under current refugee law, that family would not qualify. So that’s interesting, you see. So what he’s done is he’s processed that narrative through current law. But what you find then is that Jesus himself, early on, and his family have to flee violence. And a lot of the children in that place were killed by Herod and they escaped that. So that would be a place to begin.


And then what you find is that the church is called—the Great Commission—to go to all the nations. So it’s actually telling us to migrate to do mission, you see. And then when you go into the Book of Acts, what you find is Paul going around the Mediterranean basin to all these diaspora Jewish communities, to all these synagogues in all these major cities, and beginning to work out from there. So that’s why you have a multiethnic, multicultural, early church.


An easy example early on in the book of Acts is Acts chapter 6, where it’s the Greek widows and the Israelite widows, and they’re not getting along because of their ethnic differences. And so what the apostles do, in their wisdom, they get Greek leaders to take care of the problem. That’s interesting, isn’t it? So you have the ethnic issue with the outsiders, the Greek widows, but the Greek leadership within the early church—Stephen is the best example most people would know—are the ones now that will run it. So what you’re seeing is very early on the attempt—. Now, it’s not easy, you see, because when Peter goes to Cornelius in chapter 10 of Acts, he can’t believe that the Gentiles are believing. So when he comes back to Jerusalem, he says, “You won’t believe what I saw!” He says, “Even the Gentiles believe.” And then they have to have this major conference in Acts 15. Now, you know, the church expanding and Paul and what do we do with the Jews and the Gentiles? Can it be one people of God? I mean, so the whole issue of foreignness is an issue in the early church itself. So the fact that there were these tensions—why would we not expect that today when that’s always been the case? But we’re called to kind of move beyond that and to incorporate this.


And then, of course, last thing here, long answer to your question, Revelation chapter 7, all the people from every tongue and language and nation is standing around the throne of God and worshiping. So we would expect that would be in their languages, through their cultures. So those would be some key passages: Gospels, book of Acts, and even the Epistles and Revelation. So it’s like all over the place.


Cherie Harder: You know, your last response touched on this next question from Brian Christiansen. And Brian asked, “Jesus was not a refugee. What is the best response?” And you mentioned this in your last question, but I figure I’ll throw it out there and I’ll allow you to expand on it a bit.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: If Jesus wasn’t a refugee, what was he?


Cherie Harder: No. “Jesus is not a refugee.” What is the best response to that statement?


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Oh, golly. Here’s what people will do, and technically they’ll say this: “Well, even Egypt was under Roman influence, so even though he’s leaving a part of the empire that is semi-autonomous, it’s still under ultimately Roman rule. And they go to Egypt, which is still ultimately, even though it’s autonomous, ultimately under Roman rule. So therefore, they’re moving in the same jurisdiction. Therefore, technically, he’s not a refugee.” I mean, that’s kind of the argument that you’ll hear. But that misses the point. Because even if you want to take that argument, which I don’t think is a strong one, but that’s the one you’ll hear—. As I mentioned, about the country of Colombia, 8 million internally displaced people. So even if they were internally displaced, which is actually a legal category, the church must respond. I mean, so either way you go, the church is called to respond. Either Jesus was a refugee or he was internally displaced, but the demand of the people of God remains the same.


In fact, yesterday I got asked to write a recommendation, a blurb we would call it, for a study that’s just been published on the work of local churches in Colombia, working with churches who work with displaced people. All the trauma, they have psychologists and sociologists and pastors working together to deal with the internally displaced peoples through the churches. So if you want to give Jesus a different label, it doesn’t somehow exempt you from the demand. You’re just giving a different category, but the demand stays the same.


Cherie Harder: So our next question comes from Richard Miles. And Richard asks, “According to a 2022 Gallup poll, almost 60 percent of Americans believe that immigration should stay at its present level or increase. What explains the disconnect between our polarized political rhetoric and the apparent public acceptance of current levels of immigration?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah, I mean, that’s politics in this country, isn’t it? Immigrants have been a political football for decades, and it’s nothing new. I mean, if you go back—and you can do this on Wikipedia—you go back and look up the Know-Nothing party in the mid-1800s, it was based on migration and immigration. And back then it was they didn’t want Roman Catholics coming into the country. And it was actually a political party based on that. And so I even have—if you’re interested, I can send you this—I have an article written by Benjamin Franklin, and he’s worried about the Germans. And so he says, “They speak a different language. They have their own churches, their own schools, their own newspapers, and their own stores.” And he’s going, “Oh, will these people become Anglified?” This is in the colonies, right? And then he says, “And the men beat their mothers.” And you’re like, Where did you get that? But what you’re seeing is the prejudice. And then he says, “They even have a different pigmentation than we do.” And I’m going, English and German is really that different? So what you’re seeing is this fear of the other is as old as time. And it’s become a political football in this country, you know, for 200 years.


So yeah, I mean, another easy one would be the DACA young people. A larger percentage than half the population wants some way for them to become permanently legal. But the politics won’t let it happen, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil. And so, yeah, I mean, even the quotas in the system that we have been set in place for decades and didn’t work. But no one wants to touch the quotas because it’s politics.


Cherie Harder: So a final question from an anonymous viewer who asks us, “Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. With that biblical commandment in mind, how should biblical stories of refugees and immigrants inform our interactions with immigrants in our day-to-day lives?”


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Well, I would say all the time, everywhere. It should very much inform us because what you find in—you know, we don’t have time to look at some of these stories—but what you find is they’re experiencing all kinds of things that can sensitize us to what migrants experience today. And the other thing is, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not only stories for those who are not immigrants, they are stories for the immigrants themselves. So I think even the immigrants among us need to hear the stories. So I think it’ll cut both ways. But we need to sensitize our hearts through those stories in ways that we haven’t. We normally don’t even think of these stories like that, but that’s what they are at the very heart.


Cherie Harder: Danny, this has been fascinating. And thank you so much. And in just a moment, I want to give you the last word. But before we do that, a few things just to share with our viewers. First of all, I want to thank not just Danny, but also Restoration Immigration Legal Aid, who has been our sponsor and our co-host for this event. We just really appreciate it. Also want to send thanks to my colleagues who are the force behind the camera in producing our Online Conversations. So thanks to Tom Walsh, Brian Daskam, Marie-Anne Morris, and Kristen Forney.


Also to let you know that immediately after we conclude, you will see on your screen a feedback form. And we really do appreciate you filling out that survey. We read all of these. We try to incorporate your suggestions to make these an ever more valuable program, and as a small thank you and incentive for doing so, if you fill out that survey, we will send you a code or a link for a free download of a Trinity Forum Reading of your choice. There’s several that we recommend among our library of over 100 different titles that we think might be particularly germane to this conversation, including “On Friendship,” “Telling Truth to Kings,” “Surprised by Goodness,” and “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. So I hope that you will avail yourself of that opportunity and let us know your thoughts.


In addition, tomorrow, right around noon, we’ll be sending out an email with both a lightly edited link to this video, as well as a number of other recommended readings and resources where, if you want to go further into the topic, it’ll be a great array of selections to help you do so. We’d love for you to share this video with others. Start a conversation and the like. And hope that you’ll just be on the lookout for that email coming around noon tomorrow.


In addition, we would love to invite all of you listening to join the Trinity Forum Society, which is the community of people that helps advance the mission of the Trinity Forum to cultivate, curate, and disseminate the best of Christian thought for the common good. There are many opportunities and benefits that come along with being a member of the Trinity Forum Society, including a subscription to our quarterly Readings, a subscription to our daily “What We’re Reading” list of curated reading recommendations, and as a special incentive for doing so with your membership or your gift of $100 or more, we will send you a signed copy of Danny Carroll’s book, The Bible and Borders. So hope that you will avail yourself of that opportunity and that we will be able to welcome you as a new member of the Trinity Forum Society.


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I also just wanted to highlight a few upcoming events for your consideration next week. At this same time, our next guest with our Online Conversation will be Westmont professor Felicia Sue Wu Song to speak about human flourishing in the digital age. And we will also be doing our next podcast drop on Tuesday. So mark your calendars now.


Finally, as promised, Danny, the last word is yours.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: First of all, thanks. You were a great host, you know that? Great questions and a wonderful time. So great to talk with you. My first final word or the preface to my final word is a heartfelt thank you.


Here’s a passage from the Old Testament. Have to do this as I’m an Old Testament prof. Deuteronomy 10, verses 17-19: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow and loves the sojourner, the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.” So it’s not just abstract. God gives him food and gives them food and clothing. And this would be through his people. “Love the sojourner, the foreigner, therefore, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name, you shall not swear. He is your praise; he is your God.”


So when people ask me, “Why should I love the foreigner?” I just read the passage and I say, “Because God does.” I can’t give you a better answer than that. And that’s why loving the foreigner actually becomes a litmus test for the quality of our faith. So that’s a final word, but maybe a heavy word at the same time.


Cherie Harder: Thank you, Danny. It’s been a real joy.


Daniel Carroll Rodas: Yeah, the pleasure was mine.


Cherie Harder: And thank you to all of you for joining us. Have a great weekend.