Darrow Miller and Friends

Compassion AND Law at the Border?

Border warning sign
“US-border-notice” by Makaristos – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Recently we published a post about the crisis on the Mexico/US border. Since then I came across a very helpful article by Erick Erickson, “Moral Clarity at the Border.” Erickson is an American political commentator and blogger.

Christians tend to divide into two streams of thought around this crisis. One school wants to show compassion for those who have crossed the border illegally. They cite scriptures like “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt,” (Exodus 23:9 ESV). They call for open borders. They want to eliminate the word “illegal” in discussions about immigration. Some are now promoting the encouragement of all the oppressed in Central America to come to the USA and be welcomed. If a fellow Christian disagrees he is indicted for a lack of compassion.

The other camp are those Christians who focus on the importance of respecting the law. They cite texts like, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God,” (Romans 13:1 NIV). They want to see the border closed and the deportation of those who have entered illegally. They often accuse those who show compassion to illegals of aiding and abetting lawlessness.

Are these the only two positions? Perhaps it is time to articulate a more nuanced stance. Should not Christians be both law abiding and compassionate? These two virtues are not contradictory. Both are needed to guide the discussion. What happens on the border needs to reflect both compassion and respect for the law.

Erick Erickson has shed a helpful light on this question with his piece, “Moral Clarity at the Border.”

–          Darrow Miller

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Randy Uthe

    July 31, 2014 - 7:48 pm

    Thanks Darrow,

    Erickson’s article brings up important points, but there are already nuanced views regarding the immigration issues. Although the US is largely polarized, there are many who do see the combination of compassion and law abidance. I think Erickson was a little oversimplified when giving the “compassionate” side of the argument. I know there are some who are less into the law, but I think he overstressed that a bit. We have to ensure the right laws are in place; neither too restrictive, nor too accommodating. The issues themselves are VERY complicated and I understand them much more now that I went through similar issues moving to Malaysia. I can directly identify with some of the immigrants plights and difficulties.

    Even if you try to go about becoming legal, it is often a very expensive, long and difficult process. I believe most Americans don’t realize how hard it CAN be, not always but certainly not an exception. This was the same for me, even as an American with two Master’s degrees who could not get ANYONE to hire him for over 9 months because of a host of cultural, government and economic issues. It took 2 years to open up a simple bank account and over 1 year to finally get an approved visa. Meanwhile, I WAS working illegally and simply crossing the boarder every 3 months to get my next tourist stamp. There are times when you do what you have to do in order to survive, until you can get the process done formally. Like the US, Malaysia has built an entire economy on cheap unskilled foreign laborers and is dealing with the subsequent consequences. Both proper boarder protection and laws ARE needed, but amnesty in many circumstances is not an evil idea either and laws to make the process better, could still be undertaken. The problem is that because of the US’ current over-polarized condition right now, the issue is so political it is hard to sift through the right moves. This is especially true when issues like this have multiple branching issues surrounding it…..

    But, people need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: the history behind it, the multiple reasons for it, the pros/cons concerning it; then try and put themselves into the shoes of them and others. Then, come to the table more consciously aware and ready to talk; not fight.

    • admin

      August 5, 2014 - 12:57 pm

      Nothing like personal experience to help shape or reshape perspective. I think the main point is that we do not need to choose between being law abiding and calling people to be law abiding on the one hand and being compassionate on the other. The scriptures often call us to live within tensions, i.e. law and grace, and freewill and predestination. So being compassionate and law abiding help to inform each other.

      My sense is that virtually everyone thinks our current immigration laws and system needs to be changed. The current question is how do we live and function while they are being changed. Should we encourage people to break existing laws? I think not! How do we treat those who have come here illegally? With compassion!

      Thanks, as always, for the dialog.


  2. George Kresse

    August 21, 2014 - 10:03 am

    There are 2 problems that we need to dewl with. The first is that most from Central America feel a sense of hopelessness when it comes to the ability to get a visa. They are honest, hard working people that are continually denied visas and every time they are refused, they have paid a nonrefundable application fee. The legal door to immigration is closed. They have been told that the US is the land of opportunity but they cannot legally get there.

    The second problem is they have been told that we have a porous border and with a little help, and for $2,000 they can get in. They save to send one family member and hope that they can raise enough to smuggle the rest in.

    We must have a 2 prong approach in our solution. Compassion requires that we rewrite our immigration laws so there is a reasonable chance for legal immigration if you are willing to work and do not have a criminal history. But second, we need tough border security with stiff penalties for those that cross illegally. We cannot just continueto put adult men on busses and send them to Reynosa or Juarez where it is one day to get back.

    We need just laws and strict enforcement but now we have laws that favor a limited few and are selectively enforced so nobody believes any of our laws matter. This has opened huge doors for the criminal element. You are righ. We need compassion and respect gor the rule of law, but we have to start with just, enforcable law.