The story of family separation at the United States' southern border continues to unfold despite the media's attention temporarily drifting to the President's SCOTUS pick. The U.S. government and various foster agencies have made progress in uniting children under the age of 5 with their parents, but there is still much work to be done. Paula White, one of President Trump's spiritual advisors, recently spoke with CBN News after visiting Youth for Tomorrow, a foster facility in Virginia caring for unaccompanied immigrant children.
In the interview, White spoke in favor of stronger border security, citing the fact that many children are trafficked across the border and burdened with crippling debt as a result. Her thinking goes in line with most conservative talking points, mainly that stronger border security will stymie the human and drug trafficking taking place across the border while creating official points of entry into the United States where those fleeing violence can seek asylum. There certainly is a moral and compassionate case for stronger border security, despite much of the media's attempts to claim otherwise. Later in the interview, White discussed how she believes the Bible speaks to this issue.
"I think so many people have taken Biblical scriptures out of context on this to say stuff like, 'Well, Jesus was a refugee,' and yes, he did live in Egypt for three and a half years, but it was not illegal," White explained. "If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah."
The evangelical community is divided on border security, which is a deeply nuanced issue. The interplay between the staggering needs of those seeking safety in the United States, the limited resources to meet those needs and the criminal activity that can sometimes accompany illegal immigration is hard to sort out. In response to this, some in the evangelical community have regrettably focused on splitting hairs regarding who exactly God commands us to love instead of on living out God's call to show uncommon compassion and generosity. Instead of searching their own hearts, they justify themselves by classifying those they're called to love. Legal immigrants vs. illegal immigrants. Refugees vs. lawbreakers. Asylum seekers vs. criminals. While there are certainly legal distinctions between these groups, there are no distinctions given in God's command to show mercy.
The talking points of these evangelicals echo that of an expert in Jewish law that once confronted Jesus during his ministry. In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus teaches that one must love God and love their neighbor to inherit eternal life. In response, the expert asks him who, technically speaking, his neighbor is, hoping that only those who are easy for him to love are his neighbors. It is then that Jesus presents the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man on the margins of Jewish society shows radical compassion to his neighbor who had been robbed and beaten, with a concluding exhortation to "go and do likewise."
There are a number of valid points in favor of strong border security, but claiming that Christians are off the hook for loving illegal immigrants isn't one of them. God also sees through our attempts to justify ourselves – or the decision we made at the ballot box in 2016. The reality is, voting for Donald Trump was neither an act of hatred nor love toward immigrants. The same applies to a vote for Hillary Clinton. Wanting a secure border isn't hateful in itself, and wanting open borders isn't loving in itself.
The crisis at the border is staggeringly tragic, and it should make Christians of any political party pause and search their hearts. If anyone finds themselves in a state of cognitive dissonance, that's okay. Don't split hairs and recite technicalities in an attempt to justify yourself. Instead, let that cognitive dissonance drive you to prayer, where the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth to you.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus gave an example of Biblical, neighborly love that didn't involve supporting a political candidate. It instead involved the Samaritan going out of his way, putting himself in danger and spending his time and resources to help a man he didn't know. He didn't point the finger at those who passed by without helping, and he didn't take the time to determine whether or not he should show love. He just did it. For all he knew, he could have been helping a criminal who was on the losing end of a scuffle, but that didn't matter. His priority wasn't on being justified, it was on showing mercy. Jesus tells us to go and do likewise.