Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended immigration laws by quoting Romans 13, a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Roman church, saying, "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."
The Bible is an incredible compilation of 66 books, 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, written by about 40 different authors over the course of around 2000 years. The reason why this is important to note is because the Bible has a unifying theme, meaning that any one text can be interpreted through or supported by another text of the Bible, which is precisely what I intend to do in this article.
I don't know if Jeff Sessions is a believer in Christ, or if he just wanted to appeal to the popular Republican demographic, but I do think that his use of the Scripture misinterprets the true message of the Bible! In fact, Romans 13, and the Bible as a whole, might have a message that our government wouldn't like. There are two parts that need to be addressed here, and I hope that clarifying this will bring you to a more full understanding of the Bible and our world.
1. God is the ultimate authority
Romans 13 makes it clear that there is no authority apart from God. While Romans 13 emphasizes the point that the government was established by God, it means that the government is subject to God, as well. That is, the government needs to follow God's laws. In fact, that is the point of the government, to uphold and enforce the laws of God. Toward the end of Romans 13, Paul actually defines what it means to obey the law in verses 8, 9, and 10. Verse 9 says, "...you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
If you're familiar with the Scriptures to any extent, you might recognize this verse from other parts of the Bible. Paul is quoting both the Ten Commandments, which is found in the Old Testament Scripture, and Jesus Christ Himself! And, if you didn't notice, these laws are civil laws for a functioning society. Therefore, the purpose of the government is to keep a civil society.
In Romans 13:6-7, there is an interesting commandment on taxes. Basically, telling us to pay them. This passage can also be found in the 10 Commandments, though indirectly. Our government is more than just pompous politicians sitting in musty rooms, discussing how to effectively control illegal immigration; it's also the firefighters, the police officers, the EMTs and paramedics, janitors, U.S postal services and so much more. These are real people who work for us! And we pay them through taxes. Paul is highlighting the fact that evading taxes in, in fact, stealing; it's enjoying services without having to pay for them.
Now, the laws instituted by the government itself might not reflect God's laws. They might actually be the exact opposite. There are numerous examples in the Bible of governments disobeying God's laws. A popular one is the story Daniel and the lions' den. Daniel, who was an appointed official under King Darius of the Medes and Persians, obeyed the laws of the government, as well as God's laws. Some of the other appointed administrators and satraps (lesser officials) hated Daniel, so they persuaded King Darius to decree that any and all prayers need to be directed to the King, and anybody breaking the law should be thrown in the lion's den. Daniel, unphased, continued to praise and worship God. Daniel was thrown in the lion's den, but God kept him safe.
The point I wish to make is that Daniel obeyed God, because He is the ultimate authority. I encourage you to read the short book of Daniel. There is so much more, even in this short story of the Lion's Den, that we can take from, one of which is the "law fulfilled" idea that's mentioned in Romans 13.
2. The law fulfilled by Jesus
Going back to the passage that started this, Romans 13, it says that love is the fulfillment of the law. What this means is that if we all loved each other unconditionally, these laws would be followed perfectly. And that makes sense, right? If we all loved one another, we wouldn't steal from each other, lie or cheat on our significant other. But the truth is, we don't love each other like this. Jesus emphasized that the Law can only be followed in love.
In Matthew 22:35-40, a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Basically, if you don't love God or any single human being, you're breaking the law.
This is the reason why Jesus came to Earth: because we all broke the law and are all sinners subject to God's wrath. This includes myself, as well as every authority. But Jesus, who is love, fulfilled the laws, and died for our sins. In Galatians 3:13, Paul (yeah, he wrote a good deal of the New Testament) writes, "... Christ redeemed us from the curse (death) of the law by becoming a curse for us…"
When Jeff Sessions quoted Romans 13, he did this in defense of a law that the government made, not God. Now, personally, I do think that border control is a good thing, but separation of a child from his or her family is not. This is not something that is 'fulfilled by love.' So, I think Jeff Sessions was wrong in using Romans 13 to support this method of enforcement. Furthermore, I think that Romans 13 should always bring us back to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us.