If you ever want to see the media in an uproar, just wait until a public figure refers to the Bible. That’s what happened last month when Attorney General Jeff Sessions referenced Romans 13 when speaking about US immigration laws.
Sessions comments were made in a speech on June 14 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The full text of his speech is reported on the Department of Justice website (justice.gov). It deserves to be read.
He addressed criticism of President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy. All those that enter illegally will be prosecuted. The media can be blamed for fanning the flames with pictures of supposed family separations.
Religious groups like the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals have been critical of the President’s policy. Sessions addressed the religious response directly in his speech.
He said, “Let me take an aside to discuss concerns raised by our church friends about separating families….First- illegal entry into the United States is a crime—as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
Of course, the media will have none of this. Nearly all reports of his speech have been negative. Even some within Sessions own United Methodist Church have brought official allegations of sin against him for this speech.
Seriously? Did Sessions really misapply Romans 13? This passage is not hard to understand.
Just read Romans 13:1-2, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
God has authorized human government. It is everyone’s responsibility to obey and respect its laws and representatives. There must be consequences, even punishments, for breaking the law. Government and its laws are godly.
It is true Romans 13 has been misused to support slavery and Nazi Germany. There are times when a Christian may need to respectfully disobey government. When the apostle Peter was told to stop preaching he said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
But the laws of immigration can hardly be considered one of those times. When a parent commits a crime in any other situation, we do not imprison the children with them. That’s the reason for the family separation. This is not an immoral policy.
And then there is the Pope. He tweeted out Deuteronomy 10:18-19, “He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
What the Pope and others are suggesting is that our country is mistreating foreigners. Yet they ignore the fact that people are entering illegally. They also ignore the legitimate and generous opportunities our nation affords.
Sessions spoke directly to religious leaders: “Once again, let me state that this nation has perhaps the most generous laws in the world. My request to these religious leaders who have criticized the carrying out of our laws to also speak up strongly to urge anyone who would come here to apply lawfully, to wait their turn, and not violate the law.”
I agree wholeheartedly. We can all be thankful for an Attorney General that knows the Bible and wants to enforce the law.
Pastor Stephen Howard is from Morrow Bible Church.