There are few issues facing the United States that are more divisive than the crisis at our border. Our American character creates a dilemma. On the one hand we are a generous and compassionate people. On the other hand, we are law abiding and see the need to protect ourselves against those who seek to do us harm. Political rhetoric stirs emotions but offers little in the way of a solution to our dilemma.
The scope of the crisis can be daunting. Exact numbers are hard to come by but it is estimated that there are about 12 million people in the United States illegally. Approximately 300 thousand try to cross the border illegally every year. Of these, 40 thousand are unaccompanied children. Right now, there are about 11 thousand children in shelters awaiting to be reunited with family. The issue our government faces is how do we enforce immigration law, protect our borders, and extend compassion to those seeking to live in the United States, both young and old?
Of course, we are not the first country in history to face this dilemma. Nor are we the only country in the world facing this issue. As Turkey weaponizes immigrants by sending them into Europe, the problem only grows in importance, urgency, and complexity. The newly elected president of Greece began her term today by pledging to enforce her countries borders.
Here in the United States both political parties try of find guidance, or maybe just justification for what they want to do, in the Bible. In June 2018 Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General of the United States, cited Romans 13 in explaining U.S. Policy enforcing immigration law. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, cited the Bible in opposing immigration law saying that to minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. Never-mind the fact that such a verse is not in the Bible. My only point is that both the Republican Attorney General and the Democrat Speaker of the House are trying to use the Bible to justify their policies.
Since everyone seems to be interested in the Bible, let’s take a look at what the Bible really says. It turns out, it says quite a lot. National borders, boundaries, or nations are mentioned more than 800 times. Foreigners are discussed more than 200 times.
The earliest discussion of borders is in the first few chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26-28 we find that the earth is borderless. God entrusted man with dominion over the whole earth and everything on it. This didn’t last too long. In the very next chapter Adam and Eve were taking their marching orders from Satan instead of God (Genesis 3:6). For our purposes here we can say that they essentially surrendered their mandate to rule to Satan.
A few verses later God recognized a danger to man that has now been introduced into His once perfect creation (v. 22) and God takes quick, decisive action to address it.
“therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:23–24)
Take note of what is both implicit and explicit here. First, there now seems to be a specific place with a definable border called “the garden of Eden”. Of course this place is mentioned earlier in Genesis. But here Eden is presented as a place that is part of but separated from the rest of the earth.
Second, the man is ejected. This of course also indicates that Eden is a specific place with a border. After-all, how could someone get kicked out of a place if the place isn’t defined?
Third, an armed border guard was put in place and authorized to use lethal force to safeguard the border. Entry to Eden was now strictly prohibited. Of course, since God created everything, He has an indisputable right to determine where borders exist and how the sovereignty of those borders will be enforced, and even for how long. As later revelation will tell us, He establishes nations and tears them down. But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I am just trying to lay a foundation here. Later posts will look at God’s progressive revelation.
One last thing to take note of here is the reason God established this border. That reason is in v. 22. God did not want them to live forever in this fallen state. They could now discern good and evil yet could not will to do the good. Should they live forever their personal misery would be eternal. Disobedience has doomed them to death. “Therefore.” (v. 23) God cut them off from the garden. Establishing this border with an armed border guard was an act of God’s grace. God was protecting them by limiting the temporal scope of their personal sin.
So, in just the first three chapters of the Bible, it is apparent that God established borders for the good of man. As we continue to explore this topic I will show that national borders can also become a source of conflict and human tragedy. Yet, at the same time, borders can serve as a way to bring God honor and glory.