The executive order to temporarily halt immigration from some Middle Eastern countries has almost split the nation in two. Celebrities, news media, bloggers and even friends and co-workers have all weighed in and shared their opinion on this issue. For or against, it is undeniable that regardless on the stance of Trump’s policy, emotions are running at such an incredible high.
However, I want to step back, cut through all the emotional rhetoric and look at all this from a Biblical perspective. Now I am amazed at how many verses are thrown around lately to suggest that anyone who would support this temporary travel restriction is acting contrary to their Christianity. For example, people will use Deuteronomy 15:11 it says, “There will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Or this one, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Matt. 22:39). Yet when you look at these passages, you see that the exhortation is directed to the individual, not to the State or the national government. This distinction is crucial for us to understand because the role of the government is vastly different than that of the church, family or the individual person.
God has ordained three institutions: the family, the church, and the State. Each has its own sphere of responsibility. For instance, the State has no right to tell a church how to conduct its worship nor should it infringe upon what it is said behind a pulpit. Our founding fathers were genius to state that a necessary separation must be maintained.
What can the State do according to the Bible? Well to put it simply, it is three-fold: condone good, punish evil and protect the borders. We look at Romans 13 for instance, where the Apostle Paul says “Let every person be subject for the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…” (Rom. 13:1) but then he goes on to make this statement in verse 4, “for he [the appointed ruler] does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God…” Now what does a sword do? It most certainly is a weapon used to take down adversaries and in the context of the mentioned passage; Paul is drawing forth an argument that the government has the authority to punish law breakers. Yet we can take a step further, that a sword can be used to protect. God has ordained government to exist and it is he who appoints leaders to govern, and although many people will disagree, President Trump is acting within the framework of what a leader is to do: protect its citizens.
Understandably this recent travel restriction has caused many Christians to have a crisis of conscience. We have seen the pictures on social media, we have heard the tearful testimonies and I will admit it is very easy for us to get caught up in the emotionalism of it all.
So how do we respond to the refugee crisis? Firstly we understand the biblical role of government. As Rev. Franklin Graham said in a recent interview, “the role of government is not the same as the church”. Secondly, we recognize that this is a complex problem and one that is only complicated by the ever increasing firestorm of opinions from both the left and the right. Hence we need wisdom, true wisdom that can only be given through prayer. Finally, we need to see these refugees as people and respond in love and compassion.
With the government and its leaders performing within their God-given right and authority, I ask, what will the church do in this crisis? What will you do? I will be interested to hear your response.