President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration has spurred some discussion within the Christian community in America. In consideration of this matter, the central issue is whether or not Christians can biblically support this policy, or are scripturally obligated to reject it.
As reflected in Romans 13:1, Christians are to obey the governing authorities; the only exception being in the instance of the government, or “the State,” directing Christians to act in a manner that violates the word of God.
The chief responsibility of government is to establish and maintain order; that is, to protect life and property, by the punishment of evil. Recent developments surrounding the President’s executive order on immigration have created some controversy within Christendom, about whether Christians can support the government’s policy, given the Biblical mandate to love one’s neighbor.
First, it must be observed that America is in a state of war with an enemy whose principal target are innocent American citizens. The enemy wages war through terrorist attacks. It is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens from these attacks by all means reasonably necessary. In this context, Christians are to be an influence on the State to do its job in protecting its citizens.
In some respects, the State by its past policies failed to act in a manner to protect its citizens by not protecting its borders and aggressively defending it interests. Christians are not responsible for the State’s foreign policy failures, beyond the extent that they failed to attempt to influence the State’s policy to be reasonable and proper in view of all the relevant factors present at the time the State was formulating its foreign policy.
Accordingly, Christians are not to react to the State’s failure to do its job, by supplanting themselves in the role of the State through encouraging the State to invite foreign refugees into the country, when the State deems doing so poses a danger to its citizens. Doing so would mean Christians support placing innocent lives at risk – a construct antithetical to the charge of both the State, and the Church. Any Christian is permitted to place his or her own life at risk in pursuing the work of the ministry; but a Christian does not have any right to willfully place the life of another person at risk in carrying on that ministry. In effect, Christians have no moral right to encourage the State to place its citizens at risk of injury or loss of life. On the contrary; Christians are obligated to encourage and influence the State to protect its citizens from risk of harm, and more broadly to do its job as the state, under God.
How can a Christian love their neighbor in a situation where the nation is at risk? Christians can support the State in policies to protect and care for foreign refugees in ways and locations where its citizens remain protected by the State. In this respect, it should be noted that King Salman of Saudi Arabia agreed yesterday to provide funding to establish safe zones for refugees in Syria and Yemen, which is in response to the President’s policy to do so.
In the event a Christian is convinced that God is leading them to provide aid and comfort to foreign refugees, they should seek to do so by means that do not place others at risk. For example, Christians are free to engage in mission activities; or support those who are engaged in such activities among refugees. Hence, the immigration policies of the State, and relevant Scriptural precepts, are not mutually exclusive.
All factors considered, Christians cannot interfere with the State performing its function, that being, to protect life and property, provided the State does so in a manner that does not violate the word of God. To date, nothing in the President’s executive order on immigration, or the U.S. Government’s policies or actions, is barred by Scripture; and thus the Church must be deferential to the State; and render to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.
By Allen Sutton