". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Christians Don’t Need to ‘Choose Between Fulfilling the Great Commission and Respecting the Rule of Law’

February 19, 2024

With the ongoing crisis at the southern border, which has allowed millions of people to enter America illegally, the debate over the proper response to the crisis has moved beyond Congress and the political realm. As the U.S. is increasingly overwhelmed by swarms of migrants, the debate has made its way into the church. Christians are wondering what their role is in this unfolding calamity, and whether the Bible tells us how to respond.

Believers know our duty to the Great Commission applies to everyone — including illegal immigrants. But one question that arises is, does our duty to the Great Commission then mean we should allow migrants to continue coming in illegally so we can share the gospel with them? Joseph Backholm, senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council, would say no.

Backholm argues that we don’t need to “choose between fulfilling the Great Commission and respecting the rule of law” because that is a “false choice.” He wrote, “The Bible unquestionably endorses the idea of welcoming strangers and showing hospitality. It further calls for the just treatment of everyone, because they are created in the image of God (Deuteronomy 24:17). But that’s not a rebuke of national borders or a statement that people should be able to go wherever they want whenever they want.”

So, fulfilling the Great Commission and adhering to national security are not mutually exclusive. But there’s still another question many Christians have raised: Is it unloving to then turn illegal immigrants away? To which both Backholm and David Closson, director of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview, still say no.

“No, it’s not unloving,” Closson said on “Washington Watch” last Friday in a discussion with Backholm. Everyone is made in the image of God and has inherent value — something the Bible makes clear. However, Closson emphasized, the Bible is also clear on other things that should help shape our response to what’s happening at the border. Backholm stated that “an open border policy is not a biblical mandate,” and Closson added that this means there’s no biblical mandate that gives “the freedom or biblical mandate to do whatever they want, whenever they want.”

He continued, “I think the Bible gives us clear guidelines that borders in nations and national sovereignty are good things.” As laid out in Romans 13, government is designed for order, and those in authority are “instituted by God.” Verse 3 reads, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” In other words, Closson said, “Government, according to Romans 13, is ordained for the good of the citizens living in that country.”

Even so, Backholm highlighted that many Christians still argue it’s unkind not to let the migrants come in because we are depriving them of our hospitality. And Closson noted that “the main theological argument” he’s seeing from Christians “is the argument of love of neighbor.” And while “that’s a right Christian impulse,” he said, 1 Timothy 5:8 states, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This passage seemingly instructs us to first care for those closest to us, and, in this case, that would be legal U.S. citizens.

When applying that verse to the matter at hand, Closson said “that love manifests itself in different ways, in different situations.” He added, “Yes, everyone’s made in God’s image. [But] is it actually a true love of neighbor to say that we should be in favor of a system that incentivizes illegal smuggling and human trafficking?” Is it really loving to “promote a system that brings all sorts of depravities on people” or “incentivizes people putting their own families in precarious situations?”

For Closson, advocating for this kind of system is simply not loving, and when we look at “this concept of love of neighbor, we need to have a more nuanced way of looking at it.” Backholm added that the argument that allows “people to come into the country just because they want to is honestly [more] consistent with a lot of left-wing arguments” than anything found in the Bible. In a sense, it’s a way of saying “that the desire is the justification,” which is a slippery slope to fall on.

He concluded, “We have to reject the principle that just because someone wants something means they should have it. Wherever they got that idea, it wasn’t from Scripture.”

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.