The purpose of our very first settlement, under the King of England, was a missionary and evangelistic one.
One of the issues that is rarely, if ever, discussed in the debate over immigration policy is this: what kind of immigration policy is most consistent with God’s calling on the United States?
From the beginning of our history as a nation, our purpose as a people has been to advance and expand the kingdom of God.
The Jamestown colony in 1607 was founded for only one stated purpose, according to the charter it received from King James (of King James Bible fame): “in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government.” (Emphasis mine throughout.)
The purpose of our very first settlement, under the King of England, was a missionary and evangelistic one. And it was a cultural one as well – to establish a stable and peaceful societal and political structure grounded in Christian principle.
The second colony in what became the United States was the one established by the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Its stated purpose, according to the Mayflower Compact, was “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith…”
It too was undertaken for a missional purpose, to promote God’s glory and to propagate the gospel in lands where it was not yet known.
I would suggest this remains God’s calling on the United States: to advance the gospel to people living in spiritual darkness and to model for the world what a culture looks like which is grounded on the abiding principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
This concern for extending the light of the gospel to people living in darkness was not confined to the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies. The Founders themselves echoed the same sentiments.
For instance, when George Washington met with the chiefs of the Delaware tribe in 1779, he said (emphasis mine):
“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.”
Washington’s appeal was for these tribes, trapped in native superstition, to first embrace the gospel of Christ, then to embrace the “arts and ways of life” of a people whose culture was built in the values and moral standards of the gospel. And our national government, he promised, would help them to do so.
Thomas Jefferson himself, no less than three times, extended legislation designating American lands to evangelize the native American peoples. The legislation read, “For the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.”
Thus our Founders clearly and unmistakably expressed a commitment to use the resources of the American government to spread the gospel of Christ and a civilization built on Judeo-Christian values to those who had not yet embraced it.
The bottom line: God raised up the United States to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
I would suggest this remains the calling, mission and purpose of the United States of America. Our nation has carried out this mission for all of our history. We have sent more missionaries and invested more resources in spreading the light of Christ to the far corners of the globe than any nation in history.
I have many good friends who even as you read these words are working in Muslim lands to plant churches among those with Muslim backgrounds. Their work is being done only because the prosperity of the United States has made financial support for their work possible. We want America to be strong economically not just for ourselves but in order that we may be able to contribute to the spread of the truth around the world.
It’s time for us as a people to reset and re-orient ourselves toward the continued pursuit of that larger spiritual purpose. And I would further suggest that our immigration policy should be tailored toward the fulfillment of this goal.
Congress is authorized by the Constitution to set whatever standards of admission it wants. Thus it is free to establish policies that will ensure, as much as possible, that every newcomer to our shores will be an asset to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
This means each newcomer should have a commitment to the same spiritual and cultural values that have made this the greatest nation in the history of the world. Will he support those values and work to defend them and export them? Or does he bring an ideology with him that militates against our historical religious and cultural values? In other words, is he committed to strengthening our values or to weakening them?
Economically and culturally, will he be an asset to the fulfillment of our nation’s ultimate purpose, or will he be a drain on our nation’s resources? In other words, does he come to America to contribute or to take? Will he add to this nation’s spiritual, cultural and economic capital, or will he subtract from them? Will he enrich this nation or impoverish it?
I, of course, am speaking just for myself here and not for anyone else. But I believe starting a discussion about these larger themes that have to do with immigration and the spread of the gospel and God’s purposes for our land is a discussion that is long overdue. I recognize readily that others, including other followers of Jesus, may disagree with me.
Let the discussion begin.