Romans 13 and Immigration

If you are paying attention at all to the news this week, you will certainly be aware, at least somewhat, of the firestorm on social media and other internet sites regarding what is happening on the southern border of the United States. My hope for you as a pastor is that you will do your best to have the spirit of the Bereans that we read of in Acts 17 who, "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." We must be a people who are examining everything we hear by the scriptures to see if they are true. 

This brings me to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in a speech on June 14th, said the following: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,”...“Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

AG Session was, in that speech essentially defending the current practice of separating children from parents who are being detained for criminal charges. On the surface, AG Sessions is not wrong. God is a God of order and He has ordained laws and government as a means by which evil is restrained in the world. Having said that, Mr. Sessions is attempting to use a small section of Romans 13 in a way that is unhelpful at best. When Paul instructs his readers to submit to the authorities, he gives the reason that this is because they have been ordained by God, and therefore are God's servants. But if a government is instituting laws and policies that are unjust, then we must do what is right even if it is opposed to what the government is saying. Here are two examples that I think are helpful.

In Acts 5, Peter and the other Apostles were explicitly instructed by the High Preist, their God-ordained authority to no longer preach the name of Jesus, and Peter's response was as follows: “We must obey God rather than men"(Acts 5:29) Peter is displaying here the understanding that when a governing authority is seeking to implement laws or policies that are evil, we are not obligated to submit to them because evil does not come from God.

Another example would be on the current debate over abortion. No Pro-Life Christian that I know would make the argument from Romans 13 that AG Sessions made when it comes to abortion. We understand that the taking of the life of an unborn child is evil no matter what the government is telling us and therefore, we stand opposed to any policy or legislation from our government that would allow this to take place. In the same way, there simply no way to justify the unjust separation of children from their parents.

In the same way, there simply no way to justify the unjust separation of children from their parents.

First of all, this destroys the God-ordained order of the family unit in which mothers and fathers are given charge over their children. Secondly, there is far too much evidence of the irreversible damage that this kind of traumatic separation can do to a child. To use children in this way as a deterrent against criminal activity is in itself evil, and we must not allow ourselves to be satisfied that this is our only option.

To use children in this way as a deterrent against criminal activity is in itself evil, and we must not allow ourselves to be satisfied that this is our only option.

I would encourage you to be as informed as you can be on this issue. This is not a simple issue. The law must be upheld, and we cannot ignore the conversation about the wise governing and safety of our borders. As a foster parent, I am also personally aware of the reality that there are times when it is just for the government to separate children form their natural families. At the same time however, we must also not be satisfied with a solution that destroys families when there could be, and should be another solution. 

So, how can we respond? 

My hope in writing this is that you would know where we as a church stand. Again, this is not a simple issue, and there is so much nuance and complexity that must enter a conversation like this. Having said that, we must be clear that the destruction of families is an evil that we must never allow ourselves to tolerate. We must also remember that everyone involved in this issue from those families who are coming to the US, to the border patrol agents, to our representatives, to everyone who you may interact with over this issue are created in the image of God and therefore deserve to be treated with the dignity and honor that is due to them as a human. We must not demonize people or turn people into issues. 

Be prayerful, be saturated in the scriptures, seek the presence of Jesus as you think thru this issue, and then get involved.