President Barnes on Romans 13 and the Biblical Ethic of Love

June 16, 2018

The Attorney General of the United States recently claimed that separating children from their undocumented parents at the border of our country has biblical warrant. He specifically invoked St. Paul’s words on the role of government in Romans 13. This is an unfortunate distortion of the biblical witness. In that same chapter, St. Paul continues, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

The immigration issue in our country is complicated and requires the rigorous debate in which we are now engaged. Those who wish to invoke a biblical ethic should be guided by this test of love. There is nothing loving about prying children from their parents’ arms when families are at their most vulnerable.

The Bible calls us to extend mercy and hospitality to widows, orphans, children, and others who are in need. Let us remember the way that Christ cared for children as God’s own beloved ones, saying “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14). May it be so on earth—and in our nation—as it is in heaven.

M. Craig Barnes
Princeton Theological Seminary

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, New Jersey

Alison VanBuskirk, Class of 2015

“My call as a pastor centers on shaping a community where people can connect and be real with each other and God.”