Just because it’s legal and permissible by government standards doesn’t mean that Christians should passively permit injustice and allow evil to happen.
Many of history’s darkest moments were disguised under the framework of government action, where sin was facilitated through the pretense of law and order and evil was carried out through the charades of nationalism.
Slavery was legal. The forced removal and oppression of Native Americans was legal. The Holocaust was legal. Segregation was legal. Prohibiting women to vote was legal. The mass incarceration of Japanese American citizens was legal. Even today, the systemic racism and bias inflicted upon numerous people within the U.S. is fueled by our nation’s laws and policies.
The most compelling argument that displays the faultiness of trusting a government for moral and spiritual authority is this: Jesus himself was arrested, put on trial, and crucified legally — well within the laws of the Roman Empire.
Governmental sin isn’t always obvious to the privileged, acknowledged by those in power, confronted by its greatest beneficiaries, or admitted by those wanting to give their country — their home — the benefit of the doubt.
It’s tempting to see a country as just a bureaucratic system, with politicians just doing their job, and legislators just doing their job, and law enforcement officials just doing their job.
But wickedness routinely cloaks itself in such trappings — populist pride, civic duty, national security, and patriotic zeal.
So when a brutal military-style takeover occurs to remove protesters — they’re just doing their job. Or when ICE agents rip parents and children away from their families and deport them off to another country — they’re just doing their job.
But it’s within these moments of time that followers of Christ are called to do their job: Care for the poor, embrace the foreigner, heal the sick, stand up for the mistreated, and protect the afflicted. There’s no denying that the Bible instructs us to love our immigrant and refugee neighbors. And we’re called to abolish racism, eradicate xenophobia, eliminate sexism, and drive out fear.
This is the gospel, and this the hope and joy that Jesus brings to the world — bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven above Americanism, where the fruits of Spirit are prioritized above any carnal law or authority.
Any time a government enacts new legislation or a president signs an executive order, Christians must decide how it aligns with their ultimate mission, and choose to follow the example of Jesus accordingly.
But refusing hope to the hopeless and actively worsening the existence of others is sinful and contradictory to the message of Jesus.
Unfortunately, many Christians are remaining silent, passive, or are even actively supporting the increasingly anti-Jesus policies that are hurting people and destroying families — people created in God’s image, and people that are divinely loved by God but hated by humanity.
Some will counter that Christians are supposed to submit to governmental authorities and respect national leaders. But surely we can’t if the cost is compromising the gospel.
Submitting to authorities should never mean not submitting to Christ, who is supposed to be our ultimate authority, and who himself was crucified on a cross for refusing to submit to the Roman authorities.
Ironically, the same Christians who feel we should dutifully follow today’s laws that target foreigners, immigrants, and refugees are the very same ones who passionately denounce laws regarding abortion and gay marriage.
Many will make theological arguments attempting to rationalize today’s malicious policies, but very few are bold enough to actually claim that God has called them to reject refugees, deport immigrants, or hate Muslims — because it’s obvious that God would never do such a thing.
One of the fundamental lessons of the New Testament is that Christians have been given a new covenant that’s been ushered into existence through Jesus. Many in the Bible struggled with this new transition, especially in relationship to the Old Laws that they were used to following. This new paradigm required a radical shift in thinking, and followers of Christ face a similar struggle today, where we must decide whether to follow mere political laws or the ways of Jesus.
If in doubt, the best thing to do is always follow the example of Jesus, as closely as possible — even if it means betraying our partisan allegiances. This is the mandate Christians have been given. The earliest church took this command to heart, which is why they resisted governing rulers to the point of death, being brutally persecuted, tortured, and martyred, sacrificing everything for the sake of following Jesus. Even if it meant renouncing a secular king, nation, or idol.
May God help us be willing to do the same.