Dear Mr. Franklin Graham

By Northern Seminary student, Nate Ray, a Minnesota, a sensitive and solid pastor, and also a splendid student in our classes. I like the tone of Nate Ray in this letter.

Dear Mr. Graham,

I’ve recently read some of your comments on the role of government with admitting refugees, and I think you’ve oversimplified a complex issue. You were quoted as saying “it’s not a Bible issue.”[1] That is:

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue. We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws.”

Strictly speaking, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, inspired by God, don’t speak to us, the United States. They do speak to God’s people Israel:

15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. 16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 (NIV)

In fact, you could say the Scriptures demanded Israel to welcome unconditionally refugee slaves.[2] And the Scriptures do speak to God’s people, the Church. The United States isn’t Israel and it isn’t the church. But here’s the complex part you left out:

When the Scriptures were written, they did not have democratic governments in mind; they did not have in mind governments in which the people of the government share a voice in the government’s governing; “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.[3]

The Scriptures do, on the other hand, have plenty to say to followers of Jesus about our responsibilities towards the refugee, the marginalized, the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan. You’ve said yourself, on a recent Facebook post:

“As Christians we are clearly taught in the Bible to care for the poor and oppressed. […] As Christians we are commanded to help all, regardless of religious background or ethnicity, like the Good Samaritan Jesus shared about in the Bible. Our job is to show God’s love and compassion.”[4]

You then state:

“I believe the best way to help is to reach out and help these people in their own countries. I support the establishment of safe zones inside Syria and Iraq that would be protected by the international community until a political solution is found. We need to pray for political solutions that would bring peace and allow them to return to their homes as they desire.”

I’m not saying the second part of your statement posted to your Facebook page are bad ideas. What I am saying is those, in fact, aren’t Bible ideas. They are your ideas.

So here’s my rub: if, in your own words, the job of Christians “is to show God’s love and compassion” and that Christians “are called to help all, regardless of religious background or ethnicity, like the Good Samaritan Jesus shared about in the Bible;” if the Bible does have something to say to Christians with regards to these issues and Christians do have a voice in their governing process, then yes, Mr. Graham, this in fact is a Bible issue.

Much more can be said and is being said. I just wanted to write and point out that this is a little more complex than your statements would indicate. And this is why a lot of Bible-believing Christians have concerns over what you’ve said.

Sincerely,

Nate Ray

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/frankling-graham-refugees_us_5889049ce4b061cf898c6c42

[2] See Scot McKnight, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/01/28/news-fate-refugees/

[3] Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

[4] https://www.facebook.com/FranklinGraham/

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.