Orphans and Children Separated at the Border (James 1:27)

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James 1:27

One of the difficulties of our current, polarized political climate is that to speak up on any controversial issue is to be pigeon-holed into a political party or agenda. As Christians our loyalty lies not on a political platform, which will rot and decay, but on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, which lasts forever. It is important to say this before launching into a brief response to the current crisis of children being separated from their parents at the border.

How should Christians understand this issue? James says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress… (James 1:27).” James is not offering some new instruction here. Orphans and widows is a common biblical stand-in phrase for anyone in society who is vulnerable and in need.

The theme of taking care of the vulnerable and those in need runs throughout Scripture. When God delivered his instructions to Israel after delivering them from slavery in Egypt, he commanded them: “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22-24) God made provisions for the welfare of the foreigner, fatherless, and widow in his covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Scripture attests that God has a special concern for the vulnerable and in need (Psalm 146:9). Nearing the fall of the nation of Israel, when wickedness, idolatry, and immorality was rampant, the LORD decried: “Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17) And, when Israel returned to the promised land, the Lord continued to say, “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor (Zechariah 7:10).” The early church was quick to heed such directives (see Acts 6:1-7; Galatians 2:10).

We cannot take out narrow slices of Scripture to make the Bible say what we want it to say. The Westminster Confession of Faith wisely said that it is necessary to consult the “whole counsel of God” when seeking to deduce God’s will on any issue regarding salvation, faith, and life. These children are being traumatized with a trauma that will more than likely impact their entire lives. No matter our stand on immigration policy or wall building, Scripture seems clear. Our call to “look after orphans” certainly ought to extend to children such as these.

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