The Syrian Refugee Crisis & the Biblical Morality of Border Enforcement (Part 1)

Our Highly Charged Political Environment

Americans are talking about immigration! The recent terrorist attack in Paris is largely believed to have been instigated by at least some unvetted Syrian War refugees that had crossed the national border.1 Similarly, “Two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are claiming that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector.”2 If ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack,3 can infiltrate the unvetted Syrian refugees coming into Europe, the great fear among Americans is that ISIS has similarly infiltrated the Syrian refugees now pouring across the American border and into the United States. Presidential contender Donald Trump has even made altering America’s present lax immigration enforcement as well as the need to deport a plethora of illegal aliens the signature issue of his widely popular national campaign. Consequently, in this present highly charged political climate, Americans are now involved in a national dialogue concerning the legitimacy of America’s current lax immigration policies. Many on the political left are questioning the morality of denying the Syrian refugees unfiltered and unvetted access to America. On the other hand, those favoring stricter immigration standards are often labeled as hateful, racist, and xenophobic.


As is common in national debates, people often selectively appeal to the Bible in order to garnish support for their political point of view. For example, in Obama’s speech defending his executive amnesty decision late last year, Obama referenced a quote from the Bible, Exodus 23:9, when he said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.”4 David French summarizes the political left’s use of Scripture to find support for its open borders policy:

Writing in the Guardian, Giles Frazier declared that there is “no respectable Christian argument for fortress Europe, surrounded by a new iron curtain of razor wire to keep poor, dark-skinned people out.” His theological argument is that both the Passover and the Eucharist are a call to “re-live basic human solidarity” with the refugee “in the face of existential fear and uncertainty.” Indeed, Jesus’s flight to Egypt was “deliberately sampling” the “basic foundational myth of Exodus.” Mark Woods, a Baptist minister, referred to the “stark and terrifying parable of the sheep and the goats,” where Jesus decrees, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” because “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me.” Think Progress used this same scripture to condemn Christian governors who oppose allowing Syrian refugees into their states. President Obama himself used biblical imagery to taunt opponents of his refugee resettlement program as “scared of widows and orphans.” As a general matter, advocates of open borders often refer to [the] Mosaic law requiring the Israelites to treat the “foreigner residing with you” as if foreigners were “native-born,” and to “Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” The laws of Israel, they point out, applied equally to the “foreigner” and the “native-born.”5

Of course, anyone can quote the Bible out of context for their own purposes, as even the devil does that (Luke 4:9-11; Ps 91:11-12). A biblical text without a context is nothing more than a pretext that can be conveniently utilized to proof-text any preconceived notion that an already biased person seeks to substantiate. However, the key question that needs to be asked is, “is it really un-Christ-like, unbiblical, and immoral to call for tougher and more consistent enforcement of our existing immigration laws?”


The Need to Obey the Laws of the Land

In actuality, it is entirely biblical to oppose illegal immigration, amnesty, and a porous borders policy. Three reasons cause me to reach this conclusion. First, the Bible teaches that believers should obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17; Titus 3:1). Illegal immigrants by definition are violating the American immigration laws. Why should we support any illegal activity when the Scriptures are very clear that we should obey the government whenever possible?


God Created Borders

Second, God Himself has established national entities and their existing borders (Gen. 10:32; 11:1-9; Deut. 32:8; Acts 17:26). Illegal immigration, amnesty, and unvetted passage through international boundaries represent a rebellion against this basic principle by pretending that these borders do not exist.


The Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:1-9 depicts the famous Tower of Babel story. This event represents man’s first attempt at world government. God’s opinion is clearly expressed on the whole subject of world government in Genesis 11:7-9 when God scattered Babel’s builders. God performed a miracle that confounded the language of the builders. Thus, the builders could no longer cooperate with each other. Consequently, this whole building project was stopped dead in its tracks. From this divine intervention originated the various nations, cultures, and ethnicities of the earth. All of the various ethnic entities of the earth all owe their origin to this divine scattering that took place at the Tower of Babel.


Why was God opposed to this one-world project? Why did God thwart humanity’s first attempt to set up a new world order? The answer is pretty clear when you look at Genesis 11 verse 6: “The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” When verse 6 says, “nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them,” it is not talking about the potential for good. Rather, it is talking about the potential for evil. If there is only one government on planet earth and that government happens to fall into the wrong hands, then the power or the ability to bring in unprecedented evil will be left unchecked. Suppose that the only government that exists in the world falls into the hands of a Saddam Hussein or an Adolf Hitler. Think of the unprecedented evil that could then occur. On the other hand, if you have multiple nations in existence and an Adolf Hitler or a Saddam Hussein gets control over just one of those nations, then the other nations can arise and counter balance the evil that is taking place in that one country or one nation that has gone astray. This counterbalancing has happened many times in world history. For example, the Allies arose during World War II and opposed Hitler. During the Gulf War, America and a coalition of nations arose and opposed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Thus, the whole concept of multiple nations, which God created at Babel, serves as a built in check and balance system. Evil cannot get control of all political power because there is a division of power amongst multiple nations. Thus, there is great wisdom in how God similarly set things up subsequent to the Tower of Babel event.


Why did God set things up in this way? He did so because of what is recorded in Genesis 8:21, which was articulated immediately after the Flood. Genesis 8:21 says, “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’” God knows human nature. He knows that humanity has inherited a sin nature from Adam (Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 5:12) and that this is true of every human being. Given this anthropological reality of man’s sinfulness, if man has unlimited power, he will ultimately become corrupted by this power. Thus, God, at the Tower of Babel, set up a system whereby power would be dispersed amongst multiple nations. Power could not be coalesced in a single Nimrod-type character or figure after God caused the confusion of the languages at the Tower of Babel.


Thus, ever since the Tower of Babel, God’s normal ordering of the human race is based on individual nations rather than global governance. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy 32:8 we read, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel” (italics added). Notice here this idea of boundaries and nations. Paul the apostle in the New Testament makes a similar reference to this doctrine of nations during his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:26. There the Apostle Paul said, “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having predetermined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (italics added). Ever since the Fall of man, and more specifically ever since the confusion of the languages that took place at the Tower of Babel, the natural order of things is for man’s power to be divided or dispersed according to individual nations rather centralized in one universal government.


In sum, given humanity’s sin nature, God wants power decentralized, and that explains why He confounded the languages at Babel. The existence of multiple nations provides a natural check and balance system which is necessary given man’s sin nature. Such national decentralization helps preserve the social order in our fallen world. Evil cannot get control of all political power and its progress is hindered with the existence of a plethora of national boundaries.


(To Be Continued…)



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