God-sanctioned borders (?)

One thing I love about the Bible is that there is always more to explore, more to learn, more to make you think. This is especially true when others are involved in the process. Their unique perspectives force us to see the Bible in a new light.

The other day a friend of mine argued in favor of strong national borders using this verse from the book of Acts:

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26)

It’s a powerful argument, one that deserves to be explored. If God has determined the borders of the different nations, then aren’t his people called to respect those borders?

Of course, there are still lots of questions to be answered. For example, when Iraq “annexed” Kuwait back in the 1990s, was this action ordained by God? Was the old border the divinely sanctioned boundary or did the new boundary immediately enjoy that status?

If the United States feels called to violate another country’s borders in order to defend themselves, does that become a sinful action? What about a bombing run on a country we’re not officially at war with, like when the U.S. bombed Libya in 1986?

These are questions that show how complicated this matter is. As a Texan, let me look at a situation that affects me more directly.

Think about what Mexico looked like in 1835. Its borders included Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming (Correct me if I’m missing any). Let’s discuss the significance of that in light of Acts 17. What are some of the possibilities?

  • The United States violated God’s law in taking land from Mexico. This sin was part of God’s plan, however, and the current borders are now sacrosanct.
  • Those who immigrated to Mexico illegally committed sin, but only they are responsible for that. Countries cannot be held accountable for sin.
  • The violation of God-established borders was sinful and until repentance (and restitution) is made, the sin persists.
  • The shifting of a border from one country to another is always part of God’s determining where people should live; such shifts always have God’s approval. This includes both the actions of governments and individuals.

There are more possibilities. And I’m obviously ignoring the fact that the land which belonged to Mexico had previously belonged to others. But I would point out this: if you feel that this shift in sovereignty was in any way sanctioned by God, can one not argue that the current immigration enjoys the same sanction? If you feel that it was sinful, then are we not hypocritical to criticize others for committing the very same sin we enjoy the benefits of?

If we’re going to use Acts 17 to condemn others, let’s be aware that we are also pointing an accusing finger at our nation and our forefathers. It’s all too convenient to say, “That was then; this is now.” In biblical times, God never hesitated to punish a nation centuries after a sinful act. Use Acts 17 to condemn the immigrant, as long as you are willing to return any land you and your family own to its rightful owners.

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