We seem divided about The Wall that the President proposes (pun intended). I’m sure my opinion will be taken into consideration in Washington when it comes to build or not to build, as are all my opinions. It’s just a matter of time to receive my routine call from the White House.
I admit that neither construction nor political science is my forte, but what I do know something about is the Bible. And when I heard someone argue for The Wall on the basis that “they had walls in Bible times, therefore walls are good,” I couldn’t help but chime in.
“Jerusalem has a wall,” they say, “a pretty big one by ancient standards, built, no doubt, by the ancients to keep their enemies out. So what’s the problem with us having our own wall? It’s in the Bible, isn’t it? There’s even an entire Bible book (Nehemiah) devoted to rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall.”
Let me say by way of introduction that we Christians should be more apt to consult God and his Book when formulating our opinions about world events. We seem to have made a mad dash to partisan presuppositions and their favorite news pundits before turning to their Bibles. That’s backwards.
What concerns me, especially for those who claim to love Jesus, is how fear and anger frame our national conversation in a way that’s extremely unhealthy. If all the revenge-laden rhetoric came from the irreligious I would understand. But I’m ashamed when people who profess faith in Jesus exhibit a similar hysteria, cloaked in biblical language.
C.S. Lewis said, “Hatred is best combined with fear. . . The more we fear the more we will hate.” Hate does have a place in us, but it should be reserved for the evil that resides in our hearts.
What more could the Father of Hate hope for than Christians who circle their wagons and point their weapons outward at anything that moves in the surrounding darkness? We can’t very well win the world to Jesus and be at war with it at the same time. Barricaded behind impenetrable walls of ethnocentrism isn’t exactly what Jesus had in mind for the Church he left in charge of advancing his loving kingdom.
If you see the Scripture differently than I do, I’d be delighted to hear what you have to say. There is a very remote possibility that I am wrong about what the Word teaches.
But please keep your spitballs and chalk erasures to yourself if you want to argue on the basis of economics or politics. I have one point here, and that is that we can’t logically draw a straight line from the ancient wall of Jerusalem to the proposal of walling ourselves off from our neighbors to the south.
First of all, Jerusalem’s wall wasn’t built to keep foreigners out. As shown in this small selection of passages, God was very clear with the Jews about being particularly hospitable to foreigners among them.
Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
Malachi 3:5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
Leviticus 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
2 Chronicles 2:17 Solomon took a census of all the aliens who were in Israel, after the census his father David had taken; and they were found to be 153,600.
Ezekiel 47:21-23 …and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.
So, if not for keeping foreigners out, what were the walls for? It wasn’t foreigners but invading armies that the walls in their day deterred. In ancient times, cities had walls to keep raiding enemies from having easy access to conquer their citizens. Walls kept sword-wielding armies from just walking up to the city limits and killing them.
Is self-defense not a good thing? Sure, but what the walls did in those days, we do today with satellites and missile-defense systems run by computers. So to say, “Jerusalem has a wall, hence it’s biblical,” isn’t logical.
Secondly, drawing a straight line from before-Jesus times to since-Jesus times is a mistake for many theological reasons, but as it pertains to wall building in particular. Jerusalem was “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,” the apple of God’s eye. It was special because it was the capital of his Holy Land, the center of Judaism, which God initiated for the purpose of giving birth to Messiah. He set the nation up with moral, civil, and ceremonial laws that would “wall in” his people for thousands of years until they gave birth to Jesus and delivered him to the rest of the world.
This was the primary assignment of the Jews. And they finished their assignment––albeit barely. Those law-walls are no longer necessary. They did their job of protecting the nation from getting irreparably diluted unto the coming of the Savior.
Stay with me now…
In the same way those law-walls are no longer needed, the physical walls around Jerusalem are now just a monument to history. They make for a fascinating field trip history lesson and a great walk on the ramparts (which I’ve done), but they no longer serve any practical defensive purpose. Those who live inside those walls are no safer as a result of them.
I’m saying that Old Testament walls were for those times only, and you can’t draw a straight line from there to “So it’s biblical to build a wall to keep immigrants from crossing our southern border.” It’s not only impractical; it’s not a valid use of Scripture.
And now in New Testament times, we might say by way of metaphor, that the Jerusalem wall was more counterproductive than useful to God’s purpose for the first Christians to get out and evangelize. The apostles apparently were so content with what was happening in their capital city that they were slow to reach out beyond its wall. They were walled in (in a manner of speaking) and therefore had to be motivated––through persecution––to leave the city in order to preach the gospel to people outside Jerusalem, in “Judaea, Samaria, and the rest of the world”!
Sometimes walls are not only unnecessary, but can be detrimental. They can keep people from going out where they should go as well as keep others away who should be invited in! The mission field has come to us and, in my opinion, we shouldn’t wall them out or ourselves into presumably safe Christian ghettos.
I’ve heard people say that they think we should accept only “Christian refugees.” I’m sure the irony of this isn’t lost on you! We’re going to accept only those who already have him and keep out people who need Jesus the most? Not the best kingdom strategy.
It reminds me of story of the five missionary families who went to evangelize previously unreached Ecuadorian headhunters in 1956. In one day all five of the men were speared to death while trying to bring the gospel to them. When Steve Saint asked his dad as he boarded his plane for the last time, “If the Waodani attack, will you defend yourself? Will you use your guns?” Nate Saint replied, “Son, we can’t shoot the Waodani. They’re not ready for heaven. We are!” They were all martyred that very day. Later most of that tribe, including some of their killers, came to Christ and were baptized by the missionary widows!
Would a wall make us any safer from terrorism or all those supposed “rapists and criminals” from across the border? I personally don’t think so. Would it make some people feel safer? Probably, but at what cost financially, socially, and most of all, spiritually?
And can we justify The Wall from the Bible? No. Not without some pretty tricky Scripture twisting anyway. How about on an economic or political level? I’ve heard arguments on both sides of that debate and won’t even go there. But I encourage you not to use the Bible to rationalize your fears, prejudices, or anger.
When we’re dominated by what we feel rather than informed by what we believe the Church been known historically to do some pretty stupid things, having become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Don’t let your feelings––especially the companion emotions of fear and anger––govern your thinking when we should be thinking through the lens of the Word of God and acting on what we see through that lens.
“We fear loss of power, money, safety, so we wrap ourselves in insulation. What we should fear is suffocating in the insulation.” Scott Bessenecker
PS Feel free to weigh in on the subject of the wall (or just walls in general), and I’ll include your thoughts in my conversation with POTUS.