The Law is the Law, or is it? – Romans 13 and the Refugee Crisis (Part 1 of 4)

romans 13

“If you don’t want to be separated from your child then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that. . . Persons who violate the laws of our nation are subject to prosecution. 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 the government for his purposes.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Fort Wayne, IN ~ June 14, 2018 

My more politically astute friends have reminded me recently that since politics is not my area of expertise I should stay out of debates like this one on immigration. While it’s true that I’m no pundit on affairs of state, I do know a thing or two about the Bible, and I can’t let Mr. Sessions get away with his cherry-picking interpretation of a biblical passage to justify the inhospitable, if not inhuman, way of mistreating immigrant children and their parents who come to our country in an attempt to escape hunger and/or violence in their countries of origin.

Regarding current U.S. immigration and border enforcement policies of warehousing parents and their children in detention facilities, denying asylum to people being hunted down by gangs and cartels, and telling women that domestic violence is not an asylum-worthy life circumstance; Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention said, “This is something that should be morally obvious. The very fact that we have to have this controversy is discouraging.” To “morally obvious” I would add biblically indisputable.

Spoiler Alert: I offer no specific solution to the crisis, not even anything like “open borders,” as many conservatives claim must be the proposition of anyone who proposes a more humane approach to immigration. So don’t get your hackles up in that direction before hearing me out. Everyone agrees that some sort of vetting and limits to the numbers we receive is reasonable.

However, neither can I sit back and be silent when our lawmakers treat our needy neighbors without conscience or compassion, calling them “animals”*, deeming all of them criminals, and then use the Bible to justify it. The Bible has historically been misused as a weapon in the hands of coercive authorities. Mr. Sessions, like other politicians and preachers before him, utilizes Scripture to back up his preconceived ideas and to keep people in line.

*[I am aware that Mr. Trump claims he was talking about MS-13 gang members in that comment. At least that’s what he said he meant. Who, that is MS-13 members, don’t seem to be pouring over the border like insects as the president repeatedly suggests.]

Of course, we’re all limited in our approach to God’s Word. We all have our own biases and prejudices that obscure its truths, however it is not an inherent fault against which we have no recourse.

Read: The Weaponized Bible

Bible weaponizers have used God’s Word to initiate the crusades, justify slavery, support Jim Crow laws and anti-Semitism, villainize Irish Catholics immigrating to the U.S., and engender hate against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and all the other “others.” Such folk read it’s pages through the lens of the American Dream, through their party platform, or simply through whatever they think benefits them at the moment.

It was never God’s intent to give us his Word as ammunition to prove our points and win our arguments. The truth is more like seeds to plant in people rather than bullets to shoot at them! Seeds are for farmers and bullets for combatants.

This isn’t the first time in American history where this particular passage has been invoked to justify a political agenda. During the American Revolution, loyalists used it to oppose a resistance against British authority and laws. Southern slaveholders used the passage to justify slavery and fend off abolitionists. Oh, and by the way, Christians in Nazi Germany dutifully supported Hitler by citing Romans 13. “Be subject to governing authorities,” they said. When we get to the point of supporting Hitler and advocating slavery as a Christian duty, should be our first clue that our interpretation of Scripture has long left the rails!

Since the man who wrote this chapter was executed by the government for not submitting to the governing authorities out of his love for Christ, we might consider a different interpretation of it than our Attorney General posits.

In this and the following few posts I will encourage us to look at the passage from four different vantage points: lexical, contextual, theological, and historical/cultural, with a goal to arrive at a clearer understanding of these seven verses and its application to our present dilemma at our southern border. I assure you that it won’t be as complicated as it sounds.

Next time we’ll look at it from a “Lexical”* vantage point. Until then, remember Jesus was a refugee!

*[Don’t freak, “lexical” just means we’ll look at a few key words in the passage and their definitions.]

5 Replies to “The Law is the Law, or is it? – Romans 13 and the Refugee Crisis (Part 1 of 4)”

  1. That a way Barney !
    How do we ship the parents to Oregon and the children to New York and think that’s a good idea ? Looking forward to your other three parts of your message.


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