Thinking Biblically About Refugee Policy

The book of 1 Peter compels us to see not only God’s heart for the sojourner and the immigrant, but also a government’s ordained purpose to provide just protection for its citizens. It would thus be impossible for us to watch the conversations and coverage surrounding the recent Executive Order on immigration and the U.S. refugee program and not reflect on how God would have us handle this news.

Peter wrote his letter to Christians in the Roman Empire who were experiencing, or soon would be, intense persecution at the hands of the governing authorities. Peter called our first-century brothers and sisters in those early churches “the elect exiles.” They were beloved and chosen by God for His glory. Yet He purposed them to live in a hostile culture.

As Christians, we must understand that this world is not our true home. We are also elect exiles, chosen and saved by God. Yet we live in a time and place that is increasingly hostile to the message of hope we cling to. And that message of hope is a message for all mankind—whether they are overseas, across this country, or here in Austin.

The Tension: Caring for the Outsider & Securing Our Nation

We believe the Bible teaches clearly that Christians should care for the sojourner and immigrant, just as we would the poor, the widow, and the orphan. In Exodus 22:21-24, the Lord gives a clear command to His people, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Jesus makes this demand even more clear when He commands us to love our neighbor and treat them as we would want to be treated.

We also believe that the primary role of government is to protect its citizens from harm (Romans 13:1-5). Our government has a constitutional duty to protect its people, and a responsibility to ensure that the impacts of immigration and refugee policies do not harm the marginalized already within our borders.

In a world broken by sin, these two responsibilities—the Christian duty to care for the immigrant and the government’s role in protecting their people—are held in tension. How our government handles this tension through its immigration and refugee policies will impact how Christians across the country are able to serve and care for the “least of these.” We pray that our government’s policies and enforcement will be seasoned with both wisdom in matters of national security and compassion for the sojourner.

There Is No Simple Either/Or

Through the Holy Spirit, the people of The Austin Stone strive to obey Jesus’s will. We love and serve the refugees God has brought to Austin and those around the world. And not only do we serve refugees, but we recognize that many of our own body are immigrants themselves. For many in our church family, this issue is not political at all, but deeply personal. As we observe current political events and discuss them with our friends, family, and communities, we encourage you to prayerfully consider two principles in unison: the command of God to love our enemies and the outsider, as well as His command to honor civil authorities.

As believers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are not beholden to political parties or ideologies. Our true citizenship is in heaven, and we follow the eternal King above all other authorities. We are called to stand in the gap between the powerful and the weak. We are called to honor our government’s will to protect its citizens. We are called to love our enemies. There is no easy reconciliation of these principles. Heeding all these calls will always place us outside of the mainstream, but in that we are only following in the footsteps of our King Jesus.

Further Engagement: What Can We Do?

  1. Seek the wisdom and insight of leaders for guidance on how to think biblically about the refugee situation. Dr. Russell Moore’s letter to President Trump, The Gospel Coalition’s response, and this episode of Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing” are good places to start.
  2. Pray for the decisions of our lawmakers, judges, and President as they address immigration and refugee policy. Pray that God’s will would be done, the outsider would be cared for, our leaders would uphold wisdom and that justice would prevail.
  3. Serve the refugee community here in Austin through any one of these partners of our For the City Network:
    • Refugee Service of Texas (RST): RST welcomes refugees, immigrants, and other displaced people and supports them in integrating and thriving in their new communities.
    • Foundation Communities: An organization that provides housing and support services for low-income individuals and families. They have several volunteer opportunities to teach English classes for immigrant populations.
    • Manos de Cristo: Similar to Foundation Communities and offers ESL teaching opportunities.
    • Friendship International of Austin: FIA meets basic needs of international families through friendships, improving their English, developing their creative skills, helping them gain a better understanding of American culture and social customs, and learning about Christianity.
    • Casa Marianella: Casa Marianella is an emergency shelter for immigrants. They offer English classes and case management to help residents assess their problems, access services, and achieve their goals.
    • International High School: IHS help develop skills necessary for success in high school, college, and the independent world. They have volunteer opportunities to tutor refugee students.
    • Caritas of Austin: This organization offers homeless people and refugees services and work to support their housing stability.

About the Author

The Austin Stone
Central Elders