It has now become almost a truism: the more that various leftists pontificate on God and morality, the more likely they are to be just plain wrong – and certainly unbiblical. The related set of issues concerning border security, asylum seekers, immigration, and walls is a clear case in point.
Most things said by the left on these matters happen to be incorrect, especially when these folks try to pretend to be experts in theology and Scripture. Let me offer five examples of this. Just recently US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said this: “The fact is, a wall is an immorality.” Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke went even more ballistic: “We know that walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.”
A year ago Vicente Fox, former Mexican president, said, “God didn’t create borders. We shouldn’t have a border there [between Mexico and the U.S.].” And three years ago Pope Francis made this claim: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” I wrote a piece rebutting that silliness at the time: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/20/trump-the-pope-and-walls/
And despite the fact that he lives in a place with, um, rather large and impenetrable walls, the Pope was recently at it again: “We know that the father of lies, the devil, prefers a community divided and bickering. This is the criteria to divide people: The builders of bridges and the builders of walls, those builders of walls sow fear and look to divide people. What do you want to be?”
So, are these folks – and others like them – right? Are walls and borders evil, immoral, and the schemes of the devil, and not of God? The answer is actually quite simple: if you have even a cursory knowledge of the Bible you will know this is patently false.
Borders, walls, gates and the like are actually part of God’s plan, and if you don’t like them, you need to take that up with your Creator. Let’s look at a small sampling of the biblical data, broken down by various words used:
Consider first the notion of borders. Many passages speak to the reality of borders, both for Israel and for other nations. Here are just some of the passages that could be mentioned:
Exodus 23:31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.
Psalm 147:13-15 He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
Isaiah 26:15 You have enlarged the nation, Lord; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory for yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land.
Similar to the above is the notion of boundaries. This too is found often in Scripture, as in the following texts:
Numbers 34:2-4 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries: “‘Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start in the east from the southern end of the Dead Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon,
Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of Israel.
Proverbs 15:25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.
Proverbs 22:28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.
Proverbs 23:10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
Ezekiel 47:13 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph….
And the concept of fortified cities can also be mentioned here:
Numbers 32 speaks of “fortified cities for Rueben and Gad”.
2 Kings 18:13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.
2 Chronicles 8:5 He [Solomon] also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars,
2 Chronicles 14:6 He [Asa] built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace.
Walls are spoken of repeatedly as well. Some of the verses mentioned above speak of such walls, and here are a few more, all concerned with the great work of God to return the Israelite captives back to their own land, and to rebuild the temple and the wall around the city:
Ezra 9:9 includes part of Ezra’s prayer: “Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 1 discusses Nehemiah’s prayer to rebuild the wall.
Nehemiah 12:27-47 concerns the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem.
Lastly, we can look at various passages which speak to things such as gates. Some of the passages already mentioned speak of gates, and others can be mentioned, such as:
Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,
Genesis 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!”
Deuteronomy 3:5 All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages.
Judges 5:11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel. “Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.”
Psalm 9:13-14 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.
Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
By now I hope the point has been made: God does not mind at all that such things as walls, borders, fences and various forms of protections exist, both for Israel and for others. It is not an inherently immoral thing. If it were wrong and sinful, God of course would never have commanded that people get involved in erecting and maintaining walls in the first place. They happen to be God’s ideas, so those who dislike them may need to take things up with him.
Ah, but some critics might make a stink here and offer two objections. One, they will say this is all Old Testament stuff, so it no longer applies to us in New Testament times. There are various ways to respond here. Firstly, the NT nowhere says nationhood and borders simply disappear.
While people from all tribes and tongues and nationalities are one in Christ, there still are things like borders, people groups, and nations. What God allowed in the OT – including walls, fortifications and the like – still continue today. One verse seems to make this clear: “[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
Two, they will claim that all these things are for a fallen sinful world, but the next world will have no need of borders and walls. However, we have OT passages speaking of Israel’s future glory which certainly include things like secure borders. Consider for example Isaiah 60:17-19:
Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and well-being your ruler.
No longer will violence be heard in your land,
nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
and your gates Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
And we find similar things in the NT. It seems that even our eternal dwelling place will have some of these as well. Consider what Revelation 21:9-27 has to say about the New Jerusalem. It even comes complete with “a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates” (v. 12).
And one can argue that entry into eternal blessedness is a rather limited and protected thing indeed, while the way to eternal punishment is really wide open. As we find in Matthew 7:13-14 for example, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Certainly much more needs to be said on the biblical stance on things such as immigration, asylum seekers, border protection and the like. Here I simply sought to show that all these concepts and realities are not alien to Scripture. Other considerations also need to be discussed however, and that I have done elsewhere, including: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/11/09/christians-and-asylum-seekers/
And for some other ruminations on these matters, see a more recent piece: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/01/13/security-walls-and-common-sense/
In sum, walls and borders are not immoral and they are not somehow anti-Christian or unbiblical. Those who object to walls, security, and the protection of nations and individuals can do two things: one, they can take down all the fences, gates, walls, doors and locks that they have in their homes; and two, they can seek to find a better biblical case as to why nations should be without borders, walls and protection.