As the discussion over the detaining of refugees and the rejection of immigrants continues to make headlines and evoke spirited debate, what is the responsibility of Christians when it comes to immigration and refugee programs?
Matthew 25: 35 is often quoted as a defense for immigration — legal or otherwise — among Christian groups. Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
“Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”
However, is that the final answer when it comes to a decision that will potentially jeopardize the security and resources of our country? Must Christians give up their own well-being as an action of faith? Is the sanctuary of others, regardless of their motivation or origin, more important than our own safety?
Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday, Jan. 27, that temporarily suspends immigration from certain countries: Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. The order also temporarily pauses the admission of refugees into the United States until vetting processes have been bolstered to meet a stricter standard. Also, it is a temporary period of probation, not a permanent one.
First of all, the facts must be clearly evaluated and not misrepresented. Media reported that airports were filled this weekend with travelers who were stranded as they tried to return to the United States. Celebrities attempted to stir emotions with moving speeches and claims of persecution. It is certainly accurate that lives were interrupted with the abrupt executive order. It is also imperative to understand that any definitive action will inevitably offer disadvantage to some while providing an advantage to others. This isn’t necessarily fair — but neither is life. It is what is believed to be the next step taken to protect our country and our citizens.
It is easy to pick and choose verses or teaching from Scripture to make an argument. But a single verse does not provide an accurate response for all situations. The truth is that we as Christians are called to love one another, even our enemies. We are told to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, show everyone we encounter the love of Jesus by how we treat them.
Yet we are also called to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with — we have a responsibility to honor God with what He has bestowed upon us. There is no need for selfishness, but it is necessary to be diligent in protecting what He has bestowed upon us. This includes not only our own property, but our families, our infrastructure, our finances.
We are instructed to obey authority, believing that God has placed individuals in the positions they retain. God is the one who first introduced the idea of law and order to mankind when He provided the Ten Commandments. This was an understanding of obedience and submission. God does not desire chaos, disorder, or anarchy. Instead, He provided an example of the need for structure, policies, and law when it comes to the creation and maintenance of a country.
“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue,” Franklin Graham, the evangelist, told The Huffington Post. “We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but … there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”
Christians are not called to be naive. We must observe boundaries in order to maintain the land we have been blessed to possess in America. We need to be careful to evaluate those who come into our country but do not desire to assimilate to our way of life. At the same time, we share the desire to help the helpless and aid those in danger, utilizing our resources. Just as God is a balance of both love and justice — so our country must be governed with law and mercy.
Katie Nations, married for 15 years, is a working mother of three young children. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.