The Bible and the Border Wall

Do you know what the Bible has to say about a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico?

Absolutely nothing.

Some will tell you that because a man named Nehemiah once built a wall around Jerusalem, God obviously wants a wall on our southern border.

This forgets that in the Bible God instructed a group of people to march around a wall until it fell down.

Some say heaven has a wall and gates so our nation should too. They forget that it says those gates will never close. And what a metaphor is.

Jesus is said to tear down “the wall of hostility that divides us.” Is that a literal wall? Or spiritual? Or both?

Is God pro-walls or anti-walls?

How does the Bible prove or disprove our opinions?

Maybe a better question for us – What if trying to get the Bible to validate our opinions is the problem we need to address?

This isn’t really about The Wall. You can have your opinions about whether or not it is necessary or wise or good. I think we can disagree on this without violating God’s instructions.

The bigger issue is our mutilation of the Scriptures.

Yes, I think we should look to the Bible to help us learn who God is and how God wants people to live. I believe this includes how we do politics.

But when we force the Bible to say what we want, we do damage to its power and its place in our lives. When we search for the perfect Scripture that will simply confirm our positions, we have reduced what we consider inspired, sacred text to little more than an ancient meme.

We become butchers, carving out we like and discarding what seems troublesome.

This is how slave holders defend the practice of owning humans: “Look at this Bible verse here that says slaves obey your masters.”

This is how people justify child abuse: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

This is how people sanctify misogyny and segregation and war and anti-Semitism and the slaughter of indigenous people and any such things. They take something out of context because it fits their already held belief. They bend the Scriptures to their will instead of allowing themselves to be changed.

The Bible is messy. It involves all sorts of people with all sorts of hang ups and failures. At times it is downright scary. Sometimes it speaks in ways that are hard to understand in our modern world. Sometimes we find people acting in blatantly evil ways with little or no protest.

If we start with our opinions or our party platforms, we can make a case for a lot of things that are actually counter to God’s desire for the world. When we start with our previously held positions we are putting ourselves or our politics in the position of authority.

This is an insult to God. It is an act of idolatry, setting up self or partisanship as its own god.

We must deal with Scripture faithfully. We must read it in its context and understand it in its original location in history. And we must deal with all of it. What does the breadth of this holy text say?

There may one story about a wall being built and one story about a wall falling down but the arc of Scripture has passage upon passage about how to care for neighbors and immigrants and people in need, whether or not a wall is ever built. That should motivate us far more than a once off story that proves us right and others wrong and really has absolutely nothing to do with our current situation.

The Bible doesn’t point us to a conclusion about a specific security infrastructure along the US border. The Bible points us to Jesus, who is the Word of God. And Jesus is concerned about our heart and how we align our lives.

We start with Jesus. And we allow Jesus to shape and form our worldview and our politics. First.

And we allow it even when it grates against our conservatism or our progressivism. We humble ourselves and turn away from what we think and allow God to challenge us. Even when what we believe feels right. Or even when the Bible doesn’t lay out something explicitly.

The Scripture doesn’t divide out when we should have individual liberty and when we should have communal support. It doesn’t solemnize big government or limited government. It certainly doesn’t speak of the United States or its borders at all.

But it speaks of Jesus and it calls the people of God to follow after him. This is our starting point. This is the lens through which we view all things.

From there we build our worldview and our politic. From there we can see what is essential and what is a matter of opinion. From there we can find ways to be faithful regardless of whether we would have chosen it on our own or not. Regardless of laws or parties or upbringing.

May we stop using the Scriptures as a weapon to defend things that we have decided on long before searching the text. May we allow ourselves to be shaped by God and not force God into our own image. And may we be faithful to the God who inspires the text and the way this God calls us to follow.