DALLAS (RNS) — Like nearly every pastor in America, I want to see a solution for children threatened with deportation should Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program be allowed to expire.
I believe it is unbiblical to tear apart families and to punish people who are in our country illegally through no fault of their own. In most cases, they speak our language, have been educated in our schools, learned our history, and pledge allegiance to our flag. Protection of families and grace for strangers are Christian virtues.
However, this is only part of the moral imperative of this hour.
Solving DACA without strengthening borders ignores the teachings of the Bible. In fact, Christians who support open borders, or blanket amnesty, are cherry-picking Scriptures to suit their own agendas. And since Jesus fully affirmed every word of Scripture, we can assume that asking “What would Jesus do about immigration?” is the same as asking “What does the Bible really teach about immigration?” As evangelicals, we don’t consult pundits, pollsters or prognosticators. We consult the Bible.
While the New Testament — which is the “testament” or agreement we live under — doesn’t directly address DACA, there are three overarching principles about immigration in the New Testament that all evangelicals should unequivocally affirm. All three principles operating together are vital to honoring God in the midst of moral decay, insecurity and pressing human need.
First, God himself established the very idea of nations and borders. Acts 17:26 declares, “From one man he (God) made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Whatever else this verse means, it’s clear that God is not an advocate of open borders, as Pope Francis and other religious leaders assume. Borders are necessary to protect a country’s identity and security. Although God’s children will one day live together without borders in the new world, that is not his plan for this present world.
Second, God created government, vesting it with the right and responsibility to protect its citizens. The Apostle Paul referred to government as God’s servant: “The authorities that exist have been established by God. … For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1, 4)
The government of the United States, like the government of every other country, has both the right and the responsibility to restrict immigration, whether for the protection of its citizens or whatever reason it deems necessary.
Many people — including a large segment of evangelicals — fail to grasp the God-given distinction between the church and government. God created both institutions but with distinct purposes: The church is to represent Christ to the world while the government is to maintain order in the world. As the “Body of Christ,” the church is to be welcoming of all people regardless of their race, economic situation or immigration status.
But America is not a church and President Trump is not America’s pastor. As individual Christians, we have a biblical responsibility to place the needs of others above our own. But as commander in chief, President Trump and the Congress have the constitutional responsibility to place the interests of our nation above the needs of other countries.
Third, Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) And in the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus made it clear that our “neighbor” was anyone we came in contact with who had a need — not just legalized citizens. Although the Bible never commands government to “forgive” or “turn the other cheek” as it does individuals, the values of mercy and grace in governmental policy cannot be completely ignored.
As I write this, citizens of Indianapolis and football fans around the nation are mourning the loss of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, who was hit and killed by a suspected drunken driver Feb. 4. The driver, Manuel Orrego-Savala, had been deported from our country twice before. The way to have demonstrated love for Jackson and his family would have been to have a strong border that kept Orrego-Savala out of our country and off our streets. That’s why President Trump is correct in saying that as we have compassion for Dreamers, we should also have compassion for those whose lives have been ruined by the negative consequences of illegal immigration.
We should pray for wisdom for President Trump and the Congress as they formulate laws that will balance compassion for others with the security of our country and its citizens. I thank God we have a president who understands that necessary balance and has the courage to protect the well-being of our nation.
(The Rev. Robert Jeffress is the senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas. Pathway to Victory, his broadcast ministry, airs daily nationwide on more than 900 radio stations and is broadcast to 195 countries. He is an evangelical adviser to President Trump. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)