The law signed today by Arizona Gov. Brewer is a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. It is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It is not only mean-spirited…This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel.
Rev. Jim Wallis
This is some of the strongest language I have seen from a Christian leader denouncing Arizona’s immigration enforcement law known as SB1070, but denouncing it is virtually the unanimous position of the faith community. So, how is a police officer who is a follower of Christ to navigate this issue? A moral crisis exists if we are called upon to commit “a social and racial sin” in the performance of our duties. Is that the position that police officers in Arizona will find themselves? What are the principles that should help form our view?
First Principle: God Establishes Civil Authorities and We are to Obey Them.
- National sovereignty is authority delegated to civil authorities by God. (Romans 13:1-7)
- Determining immigration policy, who to admit and conditions for applying, belongs to each sovereign nation.
- Outsiders have no legitimate voice in that exercise of national sovereignty.
- Obeying civil laws is imperative for Christians. (1 Peter 2:13-17 , Titus 3:1)
The Bible recognizes the sovereignty of nations, the significance of borders, the value of citizenship and the authority of civil law. Police officers, citizens and immigrants are subject to that law and are expected to obey it. Immigration laws, including the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants, can be righteously enforced by the government and its agents.
Second Principle: God’s Expectations are Greater of You than the for Civil Authorities.
The government, its authority and all of its laws exist temporarily as part of our broken world. God’s plan for you is an eternal one and the sacrifice on the cross was for you, not for the United States or the State of Arizona. Your reward is eternal and your responsibility is greater. Justice is a matter of law, mercy and grace you will be held personally accountable for.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
When asked what is required to inherit eternal life the answer came, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:27-28).
In the practice of the complex and demanding craft of policing, good officers — the vast majority –routinely make nuanced judgments about when there is probable cause for acting on reasonable suspicions of illegality. George Will
Mr. Will is right. This is the daily challenge to police officers everywhere. The condition of your heart as you make these “nuanced judgments” will determine whether you are racially profiling, which critics of the law claim is inevitable, or lawfully enforcing the law ethically and in a God honoring way.
Another concern with this law is the shifting of a federal responsibility to local authorities. I will explore the dangers of local police officers enforcing immigration law in the next post.