It appears that some evangelical leaders, thankfully a relatively small percentage, believe that the Christian church in American can’t be compassionate and in favor of protecting America’s interests, at the same time. The same leaders are also failing to provide clarity when it comes to hotly debated social issues in America such as homosexuality. These, among other issues, is causing a gradual divide amongst the believers who sit in their church sanctuaries each Sunday and our brothers who are leaders in the evangelical movement.
On January 23, 2018, the Christian Post ran an article which includes this statement:
At Evangelicals for Life 2018 held at the JW Marriott hotel last week, World Vision President Richard Stearns sat down with The Christian Post for an interview about the importance of valuing life at every stage, a recurring theme throughout the two-day conference that coincided with the March for Life, the largest annual pro-life gathering in the nation. ‘Some of the same people that value the unborn as precious lives don't want refugees to seek asylum in our country or may want to build a wall to keep out immigrants that might come across illegally,’ Stearns lamented.
While Stearns went on to talk about the work of World Vision and a couple of other topics, that caught my attention.
I must say that from a biblical perspective, I probably agree with Mr. Stearns on the majority of issues facing the church today, but on the quote above, I strongly disagree with him.
First, let me address the initial part of his statement. Stearns began by saying, “Some of the same people that value the unborn as precious lives don't want refugees to seek asylum in our country…” Who is he referring to? Fellow Christians? I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t know of any fellow Christian, especially one in a leadership position, who has proposed shutting down America’s legal immigration system.
Second, let’s walk through the latter half of his statement. Mr. Stearns says some pro-life people “may want to build a wall to keep out immigrants that might come across illegally…” What is he trying to say? That it’s not Christ-like to be in favor of secure borders for our nation? I cannot find a reference in the Bible that says “a nation shall not have borders” or any other command against a nation having secure borders.
The United States can have secure borders (even a border wall and merit-based immigration) while at the same time showing compassion to those in need. These two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
I must note that I reached out to Richard Stearns’ office for comment and here is the statement I received, “In my interview with Christian Post I didn’t say or mean to imply that the U.S. government shouldn’t have an immigration policy. My point is that the Church needs to care for hurting people regardless of their status — as people made in the image of God. And in my keynote address at the Evangelicals For Life conference I elaborated on how Jesus went out of His way to demonstrate that human life is precious by touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable, and welcoming the unwanted. This models how we as Christ-followers should show the same compassion for the ‘least of these.’ The government’s job is to keep us safe; the Church’s job is to love people.”
While Stearns’ statement that I received from his office is biblical, it does not clarify his original quote in the Christian Post story. This has led me to stand by my criticism of Mr. Stearns’ insinuation that Christians shouldn’t be in favor of a border wall.
To prove that the lack of clarity is not an isolated incident, Mr. Stearns was the same leader who four years ago announced that World Vision would begin hiring people who were actively engaged in homosexuality. He later backtracked after much outrage from fellow Christians and because many people withdrew their donations.
Following the reversal, Stearns did an interview where he was asked, “What kind of church do you attend, and has that informed your personal view on same-sex marriage?” Mr. Stearns answered by saying, “It’s a Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Seattle area, but I don’t want to drag them into this. I’m not telling people where I stand on same-sex marriage because I don’t think it’s relevant.” This tells me one of two things, he is either okay with homosexual marriage and doesn’t want to admit it or he is for biblical marriage between one man and one woman, and doesn’t want to defend it.
I also reached out to Stearns’ office regarding his view on marriage. I asked, “does he (Mr. Stearns) believe that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman as outlined in the Bible?” Thankfully, his response to my request was spot on. Richard Stearns office replied, “Yes, Richard Stearns affirms his belief in marriage as a biblical covenant between a man and a woman.”
While it appears that Mr. Stearns does hold a biblical view of marriage, despite the 2014 dust up, I hope he will heed my advice regarding the immigration debate. My advice being, Christians can be in favor of policies advocating border security, including a wall, while also displaying compassion to those in need. As previously mentioned, these two are not mutually exclusive. I pray that moving forward, better clarity will come from our Christian leaders and this gradual divide amongst evangelicals will heal.