Border Meltdown: Biblical Principles

By Stephen Halbrook (Theonomy Resources)

As America’s border crisis escalates, various voices with various political philosophies weigh in. Should we or shouldn’t we protect the borders? What about immigrants—should they be admitted? If so, how do we determine whether they should be allowed into the country?

The answers to all of these questions are not in nationalism or internationalism; anarchy or statism; racism or reverse racism; or liberalism or conservatism. No, like all moral issues, the answer rests in Scripture—sola Scriptura.

Here we draw from Scripture to show (we hope correctly) the biblical approach to one of the most important challenges our nation has ever faced.

The Importance of Borders

Scripture says, “Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark” (Deuteronomy 27:17a). Outsiders no more have the right to move a nation’s boundaries (by contempt for them or by seeking to eliminate them) than a thief does to move an individual’s property line.

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites requested permission from the Amorites to pass through their land (Numbers 21:21, 22). Unless this was done solely out of pragmatism to avoid a military confrontation, this would be an example of respecting national borders by not traversing them without permission.

In any case, national borders define a nation’s boundaries and its civil jurisdiction; as such, they are to be respected. Borders lose their significance if a nation don’t have any say as to who can enter the country, which compromises national security and the rule of law. The eradication of borders via mass illegal immigration therefore breeds lawlessness and rival jurisdictional claims that can lead to civil unrest and war.

Since, by the nature of the case, borders are a national security and jurisdictional matter, they are a concern of the state. As such, the state has a duty to protect their integrity, which includes a lawful immigration process.

Respect for the Law

The Bible requires all who dwell in the land to live under the same righteous laws:

You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 24:22)

In the book of Nehemiah, we see an example of the civil power guarding its borders from those who would violate biblical civil law. Here the governor Nehemiah keeps merchants who would violate the Sabbath from entering Jerusalem on that day:

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”

As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. (Nehemiah 13:15-21)

Notice how Nehemiah draws attention to God’s wrath for violating the Sabbath; indeed, when individuals violate God’s law, then a nation risks God’s judgment (Leviticus 18:24-28).

When rulers enforce biblical civil law, they help to prevent actions that lead to judgment. Biblical civil law is a “terror to evildoers” (Romans 13:3, 4); it has a “hear and fear” factor (Deuteronomy 17:13) that keeps the wicked from inviting God’s wrath.

Given biblical civil law’s important role in helping prevent God’s judgment, nations should protect themselves from those who would, practically speaking, undermine biblical law by living in the land without living under its laws. Perhaps, then, the best course when it comes to immigration is to have a process of legalization where immigrants must commit to respecting and obeying the land’s righteous civil laws. (Granted, our nation has fallen far from applying much of biblical law.)

This goes hand-in-hand with a secure border. With a secure border, outsiders—including those with no respect for a nation’s laws—could not enter a country en masse, but through a careful legalization process that can help to screen out criminals. Such a process would also deter drug smuggling, the sex slave trade, and other criminal activities that open borders encourage.

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