Yesterday, the current government administration cited the Scriptures to justify their response to the immigration issue in America. Some Christians cheered, having an administration that would know and use Scripture. Some Christians scoffed, disappointed in the way that Scripture was being used as a defense for the "indefensible." Some Christians shouted back with Scripture of their own, citing most often the way that God said to care for strangers and sojourners in the land.
This third response is done in the right heart, but it sets up a messy theological problem that puts Christians in a tough spot. After all, God did say both things. He did not say one with more authority than the other; He said both with the full authority of who He is. So quoting Scripture that contradicts other Scripture (or the use thereof) leaves us to answer for a God who says two things that can mean two seemingly opposite things. And it commits the same error that the administration made in the first place when it quoted the Word.
Here is the error, and we should all take note of this:
You cannot use Scripture to bind God's Word onto someone else, especially not to justify your own behavior toward them.
Let me say that again in slightly different words: you cannot use Scripture to point out where someone else is being less-than-perfect in God's eyes, especially when your purpose in doing so is to treat them as something less than a human being created in the image of God with all the dignity and love that that entails.
Christians have been doing this for a long time, but it takes center stage this week with the high profile it was given. But it's the same tactic we've been using to cast homosexuals out of the church. One local church even threw the Boy Scouts out of their church after the Scouts began to allow homosexual members. Their speech, which they made very public, declared that since God despises homosexuality as a sin, they could no longer in good conscience let the Scouts use their facilities because this would be an abomination unto the Lord.
If we're casting sinners out of churches, we're all in trouble. Might as well tear them all down right now.
But the bigger issue is that this is not what Scripture means. It's not ever what Scripture means. It's not ever what Scripture meant. There is not one instance in the Scriptures where God tells us whether or not to love someone on the basis of their godly (or ungodly) living. There is not one Scripture where God tells us that we are no longer bound by His law of love because of the behavior of someone else.
Every word of Scripture is written for the believer, not for the world, and we would be wise to remember this.
It means that yes, God said to obey the ruling government. But when He said it, He said it to Christians. That means that we, as people of faith, are to obey the ruling government, not that all persons everywhere and for all time are supposed to do so. We can't bind that word on them; God has bound it only on us. It also means that God said to take care of strangers and sojourners and to treat them right. That means that we, as people of faith, are to take care of strangers and sojourners, not that the government has to do so for us. We can't bind that word on them; God has bound it only on us.
Every word in Scripture is bound on those who believe; it is never to be used as a chain on anyone else. And we are not to sit here with that word and judge whether or not someone else is a Christian based on how they are fulfilling that word or not; we are to walk our own streets fulfilling it ourselves. That's all God ever meant by it.
Just look at some of the abominations in the Old Testament. Other peoples were burning their children alive as sacrifices to their gods. When God commands His people concerning this, He does not say, "You must not love the foreign people, for they do this detestable thing that they should not be doing; they ought to know better, really." No. God says, "You, my holy people...you do not do what they do. Don't ever do this thing. It is unbecoming of you as a people of God."
And so is using His Word to "justify" anything less than our love. For we are still a holy people, a people of God, called to live His love into the world.
No matter what anyone else does.
Because that Word that God spoke? - and yes, God spoke it - it's always been for us. Any other use of it, any other interpretation, any other proclamation or binding of the Word onto the hearts of another is completely unjustified. Always.
Love one another.