Children, Immigration, and Federal Law

June 25, 2018 at 5:15 am 1 comment


This past week, the heated debate over immigration boiled over.  Last April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance stance toward illegal immigration, which he described as a “goal to prosecute every case that is brought to us.”  When a family crossed the border unlawfully, the parents would be criminally prosecuted while the children would be sent to shelters in accordance with the 1997 Flores Settlement, which stipulated that children in such situations be placed “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs.”

In the past, the federal government prioritized the prosecution and deportation of what it deemed to be dangerous migrants while releasing what it perceived to be more benign families of migrants.  Family separations still happened, but with the attorney general’s new zero-tolerance stance, these separations spiked, and controversy erupted.

Sadly, but also unsurprisingly, this controversy was quickly exploited for political gain.  Some of those who oppose the current presidential administration compared the zero-tolerance practice to what happened in Nazi concentration camps.  Some others who support the zero-tolerance practice have responded flippantly and grotesquely to heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their parents.

The attorney general defended his zero-tolerance practice, in part, by referencing a Bible passage from Romans 13.  Mr. Sessions said at a press conference:

I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.  Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

Whatever one may think of the current state of U.S. border enforcement, this is some theologizing that needs a bit of clarifying.

Romans 13 is part of a broader section that describes how Christians ought to live as both citizens of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.  As citizens of the kingdom of God, living in a fallen world where we will often be wronged, we ought to:

…not repay anyone evil for evil … Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17, 19-21)

As Christians, we ought to respond to the great evil in this world with that which is righteous and, specifically, with that which is merciful.  Instead of repaying wickedness with wrath, we ought to repay wickedness with tenderness.

But how, then, are evildoers to be punished?  Mercy, after all, may be righteous, but wickedness must still be stopped!  And often, stopping wickedness includes rendering judgment.  This is where we can be grateful that we are also part of the kingdom of man, where God has ordained that the government:

…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 13:4

Before Christ returns on the Last Day with His final and perfect judgment that will wipe out evil once and for all, God has ordained that governmental authorities render preliminary judgments that suppress evil.  For this we can and should be thankful.  And because of this, we should respect our governmental authorities, as Paul directs:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

In this much, the attorney general was right.  We are to obey the laws of our nation, many of which, including our immigration laws, are in place for the sake of good order.  What must not be lost in any analysis of Romans 13, however, is that this chapter emphasizes not only the importance of people duly subjecting themselves to the authority of the government, but the importance of the government seeking what is good and right in its formulation and implementation of legislation.  Laws are not good simply because they are crafted and drafted by a government.  Laws are good insofar as they comport with and do not defy the higher law of the Lord.

Governmental authorities must recognize and remember that they are not lords over people, but, in our system of government, servants of the people and, biblically and ultimately, servants of God.  The gift of power from God to certain authorities must never become an excuse for the misuse and abuse of power by these same authorities.  The government’s power must always be arbitrated and tempered by the government’s status as God’s servant.

As God’s servant, then, the government must seek not only to exercise power, but to exercise power well. How can our government exercise its power well to protect its citizens against nefarious actors like drug lords who breach our borders?  How can our government exercise its power well to respect the dignity and humanity of children who wind up, through no fault of their own, on the wrong side of the law?

Contrary to much of the quixotic political grandstanding that has surrounded our immigration debates, these are complex questions.  But they are also necessary questions that deserve our thoughtful answers.

Many in our government are struggling to craft some piece of legislation that will allow the flood of immigrant families who are lumbering their way across our borders to stay together.  On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order that supports the idea that migrant parents should be able to remain with their children while they are detained.  These politicians need our prayers, deserve our sober thoughtfulness, and, when required, should take seriously our appropriate and measured calls to accountability and change.  This debate may be hot at the moment, but it would be even better if it became enlightening and productive for the long haul.

Let us pray that it will.

Advertisements

Entry filed under: Current Trends. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

The Supreme Court Takes the Cake Justice Anthony Kennedy Will Retire

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Reshmey Tharakan  |  June 25, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Thank you, Pastor Zach! This is why I love my church and chose this church as my church family: Truth be told with all the questions out there I turn to my church and my Lord to guide me. Through His will thy will be done. Your words are not from you alone, but from scripture and with God’s Almighty Hand. Thank you for being the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,982 other followers

Questions?

Email Icon Have a theological question? Email Zach at zachm@concordia-satx.com and he will post answers to common questions on his blog.

Calendar

June 2018
M T W T F S S
« May   Jul »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

%d bloggers like this: