Can Christians Support a National Travel Ban?
Over the 4th of July holiday, my church stood along the parade route of our suburban Baltimore town. Thousands would line the street and watch the parade, many sitting in the front yard of our church. Out church decided to set up a canopy and hand out free hot dogs, chips, and water. We wanted to interact with our community and allow God to use our service as He saw fit.
One woman that sat in our front yard emigrated to the U.S. from a Middle Eastern country. It was a hot day, but she wore a long dress and her head was fully covered. It was clear to all that she is a Muslim. A Muslim sitting in a Baptist Church yard to watch a 4th of July parade. We interacted with her and treated her like the neighbor she is and thanked her for joining us.
The very next day, on July 5th, the following headline came across my news feed:
“Most American voters support limited travel ban: poll”
Less than 24 hours after hearing a Muslim from a Middle-Eastern country speak about how kind Americans are and how thankful she is to be here, I read about how a majority of Americans now support some form of travel ban. The article states:
“The Politico-Morning Consult poll found 37 percent of voters said they ‘strongly supported’ the new U.S. State Department guidelines that would deny visas to citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen who do not have close relatives in the United States. Another 23 percent of voters said they ‘somewhat support’ the guidelines.”
My first thought was, “how can Christians think biblically about this issue?”
As I conversed with Christians about this topic it was clear that many are in the same boat I am. We want to be biblical, we want to prioritize the Gospel, and we want to be loving to foreigners coming to America. But, we also want to protect our families and the lives of those around us from people that would seek to do harm.
Let’s establish some basic thoughts and then we can discuss the issue and hopefully come to some conclusions.
First, we cannot equate immigration with The Great Commission’s command to “go” and share the Gospel. Making this false equation will remove the responsibility Christians have to go into “all the world” and share the gospel. We will justify our lack of action and obedience on the fact that “the world is coming to us.”
Next, The Bible does not demand, nor prohibit borders. We have the example of God in the Old Testament giving the 12 tribes of Israel borders for their tribes. As well as later establishing the borders of the northern and southern kingdoms. This is not necessarily a promotion of borders; neither does God prohibit the use or borders.
Next, since God does not prohibit the use of borders, it is not a violation of God’s civil or moral law to enact and defend borders.
Last, if an individual has the right to enact and defend the borders of his personal property, a group of individuals, acting in an official capacity, have the right to enact and defend the borders of a country.
The question we want to think about is “how do Christians think biblically about immigration?” It’s an honest question that few Christians have thought biblically about. I’m not saying they haven’t thought about the issue and formed strong opinions about it. I’m saying that they have not thought biblically about it. The reason I say Christians have not thought biblically about this issue is that few that I have talked to have anything more than a political statement to make. There’s nothing wrong with political statements and positions, but Christians need to have a foundation in God’s Word for every position.
A cursory study of some of the Old Testament passages regarding immigrants (called strangers, aliens, sojourners, and foreigners in the Bible) gives us a basic foundation for our view of immigration:
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22:21).
“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of strangers, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9).
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your God” (Lev. 19:34).
“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge” (Deut. 24:17).
“Practice justice between man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin” (Jer. 7:6).
In the New Testament we see Jesus addressing how His followers should think about and treat aliens and strangers:
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matt. 25:37-40).
If our priority in life is sharing the Gospel, we will welcome “strangers and aliens” to our communities and seek to make them friends. Our actions will reflect an attitude of one that has been forgiven of our sins and now seeks to share the love of Christ with others regardless of their geo-political or socio-political status.
The Gospel is the ultimate unifying tool that every Christian has available. It has the power to bring people from all walks of life together under the blood of Jesus as brothers and sisters. With this in mind, Christians, more than others should be fans of immigration and seek to reach out to those that are moving into our communities.
A word of clarity needs to be inserted here. This issue is complex and not one easily resolved. While we do have an obligation to reach out in love to the “strangers and aliens” among us, we also have an obligation to “love our neighbor” by seeking their good. Part of this could very well be protecting our neighbors from those who would seek to do them harm. A robust national immigration policy that seeks to keep people with evil intentions from entering our country is not against any biblical command; it’s not unbiblical. Some might say it’s the loving thing to do. But, and this is important, Christians cannot support any policy that refuses to allow people into our country all together.
My aim has been to get Christians to think biblically about this topic rather than become repeaters of media rhetoric. While I’m certain I have not solved the issue entirely, I hope that Christians will begin to look beyond their own front yard and see an opportunity to be the salt and light we have been commanded to be in our community.