So let’s talk about that Bible verse that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted to justify the separation of families at the border…
1. Romans Is About All About Love:
First, Sessions took Romans 13:1-3 out of context. If Sessions read the epistle of Romans in its entirety, he would have seen that love is the center of what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Roman Church. In chapter 12, just one chapter before the verses Sessions quoted, Paul writes: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12:9-13)
Then, in chapter 13, just a few verses after those Sessions quoted, Paul writes: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
Additionally, Sessions’ point that Paul makes a “clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes” is just wrong. Paul was actually serving time in a Roman prison when he wrote several of his letters found in our New Testament because he – himself – was a “law-breaker.” He was eventually executed for disobeying the laws of the government.
2. Romans 13:1-3 Has Been/Is Being Misquoted to Justify Evil:
Romans 13:1-3 has been historically used by oppressors in power to justify evil. It was actually used by slave owners and by Nazis to tell those they were oppressing to submit to authority – no matter what – in order to justify the evils they were doing.
Many laws that have been put in place by the “State” (throughout history and that continue to be enforced today, both across the world and in our very own country) are oppressive, inhumane, unjust, and evil. Jesus would never tell people to submit to the human-made authority of such injustice and evil, and I believe Paul wouldn’t want us to, either.
Jesus must be weeping as he watches our national leaders and other Christians continue to use the Bible to justify such cruelty and hate.
3. Jesus’ Lordship:
Many Christians throughout history and across the world actually celebrate and uphold the theological belief that Jesus is Lord. In Ancient Palestine, this notion of Christ’s Lordship was a radical and political statement. To claim Jesus’ Lordship was to challenge the Roman Empire (and the oppressive “laws of the government”). To profess that Jesus is Lord was to state that Caesar was NOT Lord. In other words, Jesus is Lord over all human authority figures and governmental systems. To claim that Jesus is Lord was basically saying: “I will submit to Jesus and not to any human authority or governmental system that does not uphold Jesus’ law.” As mentioned above: Paul urged his readers in Romans 13: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
(Many of the early Christians did publicly proclaim Jesus’ Lordship, thus breaking the law and therefore were persecuted for their actions.)
During the rise of anti-Semitism and Nazi-Germany, many churches and Christian leaders responded to other churches and Christian leaders that supported/submitted to the Nazis by reemphasizing Christ’s Lordship. They did this again as a means to oppose such oppressive worldly governmental systems and to remind Christians that it is Jesus Christ – and no other worldly leader – who has authority. It is the Kingdom of God – and no otherworldly government – that reigns over the heavens and the earth.
Separating children from their families is NOT “very biblical.” (Actually, it’s not biblical at all). Rather, it is downright cruel and pure evil!
What IS very biblical:
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” – Mark 9:37
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34
“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” – Deuteronomy 27:19
What IS very biblical:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” – Zechariah 7:9-10
“Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” – Jeremiah 22:3
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:35,40
What IS very biblical:
Jesus’ parents – Mary and Joseph – were immigrants seeking refuge in a foreign land in order to protect their child (the baby Jesus) and their family… To take children at our border away from their parents as they seek refuge for the safety of their families is to take the baby Jesus away from his parents as they sought refuge for the safety of their family.
“Just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran. She runs a collaborative, multicultural youth group that consists of youth from the three congregations as well as youth from the neighborhood. Emily loves hiking in the mountains, attending indie and bluegrass concerts, biking along Lake Michigan, and singing opera and musical theatre. She has a heart for youth, justice, and the Huskers, and can often be seen with coffee or a Guinness. Emily is one of the writers for The Pastoral Is Political feature on HTTPS://REVGALBLOGPALS.ORG. You can find more of her reflections, sermons, and youth ministry ideas on her blog at HTTP://MUSINGSFROMABRICOLAGE.WORDPRESS.COM and connect with her on twitter at @PASTOREMILYH.