The first thing God did after He created Adam (Genesis 2:7) and placed him in the garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8), was to set boundaries by which he was to order his life in the place where God graciously ordained he should dwell (Genesis 2:15).
This boundary is clearly defined in Genesis 2:16:
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.”
The word Eden means pleasure.
It is with this definition in mind that theologian John Calvin commented that, in the garden of Eden, Adam “had been bountifully enriched by the Lord with innumerable benefits, from the enjoyment of which he might infer the paternal benevolence of God.”
And yet the liberty conferred to Adam was not open-ended.
The permission Adam had to freely eat from any tree of the garden was offset by the prohibition to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This lesson from the garden of Eden is one which, in my humble opinion, has implications for us today. This is particularly true, I believe, with regard to the topic of immigration and the Executive Order recently issued by President Donald Trump (which many are referring to as a “travel ban”).
According to Section 3, the Order allows for the “suspension of issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of countries of particular concern” [as it relates to threats of terrorism], the impetus being that “The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism [Section 1].”
To suggest that the issue of immigration is a heated one would be a gross understatement. I have not witnessed this level of national acrimony over a single issue since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became the law of the land on March 23, 2010.
Americans of almost every conceivable ethnic, religious, and socio-economic stripe seem to have an opinion or viewpoint about what “rights” foreign nationals, or “refugees” as they are more commonly referred to, have or do not have to enter and remain in the United States.
My pointing out that there exists such wide-ranging opinions on this issue is not a criticism. After all, what ideal better defines America than that of having the freedom to openly express one’s opinion without fear of retribution or reprisal?
But having this so-called “freedom” raises the question: what is freedom?
What is most concerning to me in the discourse I’ve observed regarding President Trump’s travel ban, is there are those who have convinced themselves that merely having the ability to come to America from another country is tantamount to possessing the inherent right to do so.
This is a misnomer (to say the least).
That I happen to possess the capacity or ability to do a thing, does not necessarily translate to my having an inherent “right” to do it.
I may have the freedom to rob a bank in the sense that I am unrestrained and unobstructed in my my ability to obtain a weapon, arrange transportation to the bank, and physically enter the facility when I arrive. However, that I possess the freedom – in the aforementioned context – to rob a bank does not mean I am inherently free to do so.
The command that Adam not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a boundary established by God for Adam’s benefit and protection.
It is in this same sense that God established a two-fold purpose for government relative to its divine obligation to:
- act as “a minister of God for your good” (Romans 13:4a), and
- act as “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4b)
There are those today who hold fast to the notion that foreign nationals have no desire to “practice evil” against America, the rationale being that their status as “impoverished refugees who have nowhere else to go”, somehow renders them wholly incapable of harboring such destructive attitudes toward this nation and its citizens.
It is on the basis of this naivety that many who oppose President Trump’s travel ban argue there should be no restrictions or limitations whatsoever on refugees being allowed to enter this nation.
But in a nation whose citizens murder one another over a pair of sneakers, what makes us think foreign nationals would not do likewise, especially considering that the vast majority of them are motivated by a “religion” that promises eternal reward in Paradise for doing so?
“…for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” – Genesis 8:21b
If there is anything to be learned from Adam’s existence in the garden of Eden, it is that God’s benevolences are always accompanied by His boundaries and, conversely, that His provisions are never exclusive of His prohibitions.
The bottom line is that freedom is not license.
Not only is the United States government constitutionally obligated to protect its citizens, it is biblically obligated to do so.
Notwithstanding any ideological differences one might have with President Trump, to remain willfully ignorant about the intentions of some whose hearts are bent toward murdering innocent people in the name of religion is a mindset which, frankly, is devoid of common sense.
A pretty hijab does not portend a pure heart.
We are all sinners.
Yes, even refugees.
Humbly in Christ,