There are many political issues which are genuinely complex for Christians.
Tax policy. The role and size of the State, and how that’s balanced with individual responsibility. How best to tackle crime, or education. As a pastor, I want to acknowledge that there are good arguments for leaning left or right on these or any number of other issues. And I don’t just say that because I’m a pastor and I don’t want to offend. I really do believe these things are hugely complex, and good arguments can be made in different directions. Most political issues are not simple.
How we respond to the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow isn’t one of those issues, though.
This is one of the things which, for Christians, is simple.
Again and again, in the Old Testament, the Israelites were reminded of God’s heart for those in need. They were reminded that once they were people in need.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:18
Jesus picks up this theme during his ministry, and if we’re tempted to miss that he makes the warning stark.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ – Matthew 25:40-43
Later, in the New Testament, James makes a direct connection between how we treat those lacking clothing and food with the authenticity of our faith.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:14-17
Donald Trump is many things, and as Christians we are entitled to have different responses to different aspects of his policies. But, on the subject of refugees, he is one thing more than anything else: he is the great revealer.
In our response as Christians towards Trump’s policy and rhetoric towards those in our world who are most in need, our hearts are laid bare. If we tie ourselves in knots trying to justify it, trying to manufacture reasons to absolve ourselves of a compassionate response, we are revealed as frauds; as people who proclaim Jesus with our lips, but whose hearts have not been impacted by the clear teaching of scripture.
Might obeying the bible on this one put us in more danger? Might a terrorist slip in? I’m not convinced by this sort of fear-mongering, but let’s assume for a moment that it might. So what? Jesus did not seemed concerned with giving us a convenient political system. If you think you signed up to something like that when you decided to follow Jesus, you’re doing it wrong.
Christians, pastors, don’t stand silent. This is one of those moments where we get to reveal who is truly Lord: Jesus or Caesar.