A huge caravan/army of migrants have been marching from Central America through Mexico with the intention of entering the United States. Estimates of this group range from 7,000 to 12,000.
The motives of these migrants are varied. Television interviews have revealed that most claim to be seeking better opportunities for work and a better quality of life. Others claim to be seeking asylum in the United States. What they are fleeing from (e.g. an oppressive regime, penalties for crimes) is not entirely understood.
The mass migration of so many people to the borders of the U.S. has troubled the hearts of many. On the one hand, many see it as the worsening of an already out-of-control illegal immigration problem. They maintain that we cannot have a country if we have no enforceable borders. They see their government’s primary role as protecting them and their way of life.
At the same time others are troubled by the moral implications of turning people away who are only seeking the things which we ourselves cherish: safety and opportunities for a better life. How can we, in good conscience, deny other people what we ourselves long for. Isn’t the Christian response to welcome all comers?
But the issue isn’t all that simple.
There are other questions we should be asking. For instance, are the obligations of the individual Christian believer and of the government essentially the same? Take Jesus’ teachings on loving enemies, forgiving others, and not resisting evil. Are they only meant for the individual believer’s practice, or should they be adopted as national policy? And what about the ideas of countries, governments, and national boundaries? Are they valid concepts, or are they artificial, created in the minds of tyrants?
What the Bible Says 1st
First, the Bible teaches that it is God who has established the concepts of nations, their boundaries, and their governments. For instance, there are biblical passages which teach that God is ultimately responsible for separating the human population into different groups (Genesis 11:1-9), raising up nations (Daniel 2:31-45; 4:17), and for establishing the national boundaries within which they exist (Acts 17:26–28; Deuteronomy 2:4–23). Keep in mind, our national boundaries exist as much for the benefit for our neighbors as they do for us. They are an assurance to our neighbors that we will not cross the line to invade their sovereignty.
The establishment of human government dates back to the period immediately after the biblical flood. At that time, God stated that He would no longer intervene with cataclysmic judgments against humanity’s sins. Instead, He would place the sword of retribution into humanity’s hand. Mankind would now have the responsibility of administering divine justice (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:6; Psalm 82; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–17). Thus, human government was born.
These passages affirm that God established the governing powers and that they constitute God’s servant to administer His justice within their boundaries. Paul the apostle would later write that human government “bears the sword” to punish the wrongdoer and reward the righteous (Romans 13:3–4). Therefore, countries, governments, and national boundaries are all valid from a biblical perspective.
What the Bible Says 2nd
Second, every Christian believer has an obligation both to God and to country (i.e. the governing powers of the country in which they reside). Jesus declared, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). In Romans 13:1–7 and in 1 Peter 2:13–17, the apostles Paul and Peter expounded on the believer’s obligation of submitting to the governing powers, to pay taxes, and to obey its laws.
What the Bible Says 3rd
Third, the responsibilities of the individual believer and the government in which he/she lives differ from each other. Obviously, no individual is free to exact his own justice on people who break the law or offend him personally (Romans 12:17–21). This is the government’s job (Romans 12:1–7). The individual’s responsibility is to love, forgive, be at peace with all people and to seek their wellbeing.
The government’s role is to provide a safe environment. Paul tells Timothy to lead the church in prayer for kings and all those in authority. The goal of praying for our government is “that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). If a government fails to maintain law and order within its borders, then showing love and compassion to others becomes a dangerous practice. Where anarchy abounds, every person is forced to defend himself and his family at all times.
This is why Jesus’ teachings on love, forgiveness, and non-resistance can never be adopted as national policy. They are to be the practice of the individual before God. The government, however, bears the sword to protect and defend. The armed forces and law enforcement are extensions of a divinely-instituted government to defend the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Does this mean that the government has no obligation to deal compassionately and justly with those outside its borders? Of course not. Part of the divine justice which God established government to administer includes the role of defending and helping its neighbors. But the government’s first priority is to its own citizens. In the same way, any parent has a greater obligation to their own children than to their neighbors’ children. A child’s parent is the only advocate he or she has. If their own mother or father does not look out for the child’s wellbeing, who will? If our government does not protect its own citizens, who will?
Remember, we all have to operate within boundaries and limitations. Even Jesus, in His earthly ministry, had to draw the line on who He could benefit. Within the limitations of His three-year ministry, Jesus’ focus had to be upon “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:5–7; 15:24). This is why He forbade His disciples from going beyond the borders of Israel and why He initially turned away the Syrian-Phoenician woman when she came to Him for help. Not until the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost could Christ’s mission expand world-wide.
The Governments Role
Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate, from a biblical perspective, for the American Government to place the protection of its own citizens above protecting citizens of other nations. It is perfectly appropriate for America to guard its borders against intrusions. It is not “unchristian” or “unbiblical” to do so. The government’s responsibilities differ from that of the individual believer. The individual believer practices charity to others (within the confines of other obligations to family and government—1 Timothy 5:4, 8). The government’s primary role, however, is to administer justice.
It should also be noted that the politicians who advocate more fiercely for immigrants than for the people who elected them are guilty of a glaring inconsistently. On one hand, they quote biblical passages about “loving thy neighbor” and proclaim that welcoming immigrants is the “Christian thing to do.” Yet in most other cases, where moral issues are concerned, they demand that religion be kept out of government. These are the same ones who crusade for the separation of church and state.
Let’s pray for our governmental leaders that God will grant them heavenly wisdom, insight, and understanding to deal compassionately and fairly with the army of immigrants coming to America. Pray for the men and women in uniform who are now staging at our southern border to assist them. Finally, pray for our Nation, that God may—by His Spirit—turn our hearts to Him in faith and repentance and to each other in love and reconciliation.
Almighty and merciful Father, please bless the United States of America. Mend and heal the wounded hearts of our people. Take the bitterness, hatred, and fear from our hearts and replace them with Your love. By Your Spirit divine please turn our hearts to You in faith and repentance and to each other in love and reconciliation.
Bless our leaders, dear God, our President, congressmen, and senators. Please turn their hearts to You that they might receive heavenly wisdom and insight into America’s complex problems. Please bless our Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Officers who protect our nation. Grant them success in their missions, and keep them safe in Your almighty and all-loving hand.
Breathe a revival across our land, O God. Put in our hearts a hunger and thirst for righteousness, but also an abhorrence toward sin and evil. Raise up men and women of God, O Lord, to lead America on the path of righteousness. For righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Amen.
In article photo: US, Polish, Afghan soldiers deliver aid to Ghazni village by DVIDSHUB licensed under CC BY 2.0