As I watch the border crisis unfold, where thousands of illegal immigrants of all ages (the majority of which are males over the age of fourteen) have forced themselves into our country, I cannot help but wonder where we as the church should stand in this situation. I have witnessed very lively discussions on Facebook as Americans debate the definition of true compassion and what a Christian response should be. No matter your faith walk, Americans by their nature are a charitable people, and have willingly sacrificed both our blood and treasure to help those less fortunate around the world. However, in this case, which is an orchestrated crisis rather than a true crisis, I believe that Americans need to be careful not to toss aside our wisdom and common sense in the name of hurried mercy.
As a Christian I believe that scripture contains much wisdom on how to live life and to live it most abundant. There are many scriptures on humility, compassion, and mercy, all of which can give us guidance on how to handle this situation on the border. Surely many of these people are in search of a better life; many are desperate enough to send their children to travel alone with adult strangers just to get to America. They suffer untold atrocities as a result; some never arrive. Others are here for more nefarious reasons. Yet, in all of scripture, compassion and mercy only came at the hands of those who made individual choices to set aside the demands of justice, sacrificing their own benefits in order to lift another up. Just like charity is not really charity if it is forced by government, mercy is not really mercy if the sacrifice of the individual (or community) also comes at the force of government. The Obama administration created this crisis, and is responding in such a manner that is putting both American citizens and legal immigrants at risk economically, medically, socially and judicially. Forced mercy is not real mercy at all – it is lawlessness.
While scripture may celebrate mercy, it also condemns lawlessness. Even in ancient Israel, the foreigners that chose to live among them were required to follow Israelite laws in order to receive the same benefits as the native born (see Leviticus 24:22). They were required to tithe, work, sacrifice during the required feasts, and honor the boundaries of not only the nation of Israel, but the individual twelve tribes as well. Our God is one of order, and condemned the bestowing of favoritism; all must be treated equally under the law (for a NT reference see James 2:8-10). Holding those that overrun our border to a different standard than those who follow our laws, robbing from the people’s treasury without permission in order to give to those who have not earned it, colluding with foreign governments so as to help facilitate the breaking of our laws, and putting the very citizens whom you swore an oath before God to protect and serve at risk are not acts of mercy nor compassion. One cannot claim to fulfill the command of God to be compassionate while at the same time breaking – and encouraging others to break – several of His other Top Ten (lying, stealing, coveting, etc.).
It is dangerous to cherry pick Bible verses in order to justify a viewpoint. For those who follow Jesus we know that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. We must take the wisdom of God as a whole, otherwise we risk coming dangerously close to using His Word to justify sin and chaos. As I reflect on what is going on right now at our borders, and our government’s spending of taxpayer money to fly, bus and release thousands of illegal immigrants into our communities (many of whom have contagious diseases and criminal backgrounds), two scripture verses keep coming to mind. The first is from the Old Testament, in the book of the prophet Micah 6:8, where it says “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. The second comes from the New Testament, where Jesus says in Matthew 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”. Did you notice how the words “justice” and “wisdom” came before “mercy” and “gentleness”? Sometimes we as Christians focus too much on the mercy and gentleness part, forgetting that these actually are two-part commands.
Our God is not just a God of mercy; He is also one of justice. If that were not the case, then His justice would not have demanded the sacrifice of Jesus at all, as His mercy would have been sufficient to cover our sins. Yet He still found a way to fulfill both the demands of justice and His desire for mercy- He freely chose to sacrifice Himself. Perhaps that is the missing piece here, the wisdom that we are failing to grasp in our clamoring to be seen as gentle first. Our government’s first responsibility is to fulfill their oath to serve and protect our own citizens; they cannot act on our behalf in terms of sacrifice. If Americans freely choose to personally bring aid and comfort to those crossing the border, if they freely choose to personally sponsor these folks so that they may have a better life, if they freely choose to be personally held accountable to their fellow citizens for the future care and provision of these illegals so other taxpayers are not burdened (which by the way, still is current immigration law on the books), then we should not stop them in their desire to make personal sacrifices. If however, this does not happen, then the first responsibility of our government is to those citizens and legal immigrants who currently abide by our laws, not to the foreigners that flagrantly flout them. Shut down the border, show mercy by giving these illegals emergency food, shelter and medicine, and then immediately send them home.