On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 6 (Bridges and Walls)

walls-of-jerusalemSo let’s return to where we began, with the Pope’s declaration —

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.

We need to avoid slogans, catch phrases, and spin doctoring. These merely anesthetize us against the truth.

Where we typically err is by beginning with our political or religious views and then reasoning from scripture to affirm our existing views. We are much better followers of Jesus when we let the scriptures speak to us before we adopt a political position. After all, it’s far better to obey God rather than man.


Should we build bridges? Absolutely. I don’t think it’s a biblical metaphor, but the idiom is true enough. I’m all for building bridges. More precisely, the mission of God includes uniting the nations — so that the Kingdom includes all nations, all peoples, all languages, and all ethnicities. Accomplishing this is going to require a lot of bridges. But we aren’t called to unite the world — rather, we are called to invite the world into the Kingdom, where all divisions and distinctions will no longer matter.

We are also called to be peacemakers — but “peacemaker” means that we bring to the world the shalom of God: right relationship among men and with God. If God is left out, there can be no shalom and thus no peace.

Jesus declares that not all that the world terms peace is truly that. Jesus has not come to bring a false peace in which outer quietness rules while storms rage within but rather to cut clean as a sword the division between truth and falsehood, between idolatry and true service of God.

William Klassen, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 1992, 5, 208.

On the other hand, secular peace can lead to Christian peace. The Pax Romana helped the early church grow and spread. The ending of war and terrorism in a given nation makes the work of missionaries and church leaders much easier. Then again, if secular peace is won at the cost of religious freedom for Christians, the peace isn’t truly shalom.

In short, even a concept as simple as “peace” isn’t that simple when thought through in Kingdom terms. We can’t just figure, “Peace is good. I’m for peace.” Not all peace is good.

(Matt. 10:34 ESV)  34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Jesus is not contradicting himself. Rather, he’s pointing out that the Kingdom will not be benefited by every kind of peace. Sometimes, the Kingdom will create controversy and division.

Walls and immigrants

Should we build walls? Well, yes. Walls are good. They keep people safe from invaders and criminals. Defending a nation’s borders is clearly approved by God.

Should we allow immigrants? Absolutely. The Torah (and the rest of the Bible) clearly encourages God’s people to have sojourners living among them.

The Jews made a key distinction though: not all foreigners were allowed to live among the Jews. Criminals and invaders were barred. The walls were there to keep them out — and in that society, the absence of walls would have meant not only subjugation to invaders, but also the inability to protect their property from thieves and other criminals.

On the other hand, the Torah strongly encouraged the Jews to allow sojourners to live among them — and to treat them much the same as a fellow Jew. There were exceptions, but the general principle was to be as gracious to them as you wish the Egyptians had been to you — that is, to treat the sojourners as near equals. But there were limits.

This was both a natural consequence of the hospitality dictated by that culture but also the desire to be like YHWH.

(Deut. 10:17-19 ESV)  17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

The Israelites were to love the sojourner because God loves sojourners. Abraham had been a sojourner. The Israelites had been sojourners. And so God has a soft-spot in his heart for sojourners — and not just Jews.

We aren’t told how the city elders decided who might live in the land and who would be excluded, but clearly that were required to be open-handed toward the sojourner.

(Exod. 22:21 ESV)  21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

(Lev. 19:33-34 ESV)  33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Now, the obvious problem presented in the ancient world is that a sojourner might deceive the elders and receive sojourner status unfairly. And it happened —

(Jos. 9:3-6 ESV)  3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,  4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,  5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.  6 And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.”

(Jos. 9:22-26 ESV)  22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us?  23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”  24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you– so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.  25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.”  26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them.

Joshua concluded that, although he’d been deceived, honor required that they let the Gibeonites live among the Israelites, even though they were among the people God had designated for destruction.

[to be continued]

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 6 (Bridges and Walls)

  1. Gary says:

    Deuteronomy 26:5, “A wandering Aramean was my father.” In the big picture God’s people have always been sojourners. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Daniel and so many of the Hebrew people lived part or all of their lives as sojourners. Most Jews throughout history have been sojourners. The theme continues for Christians. We are in the world but we are not of the world. Doesn’t Peter refer to Christians as aliens and exiles? Like Abraham we are looking for a city with foundations that still lies in our future. Of all people Christians should have a heart for refugees in our world. No we can’t take them all in. But our emphasis should be on doing what we can do for refugees and not justifying barriers to keep them away from us. Where would Jesus be in our world today? Which side of the wall would Jesus be on? Would he be with those who are shut out or with those doing the shutting out? I think we all know the answer.

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    Are you applying the passage Deu 26:5 to those who are not God’s people? The individual in the verse was a worshiper of God. Check out the context, and notice it does indicate he is also part of the individuals to inherit the land. So how does this fit with what you are using it to support?
    Deu 26:1-11 ESV “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, (2) you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. (3) And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ (4) Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. (5) “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. (6) And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. (7) Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. (8) And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. (9) And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (10) And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. (11) And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

  3. Gary says:

    Larry, my point with Deuteronomy 26:5 was simply that the theme of God’s people as sojourners begins very early in the biblical narrative.

  4. Larry Cheek says:

    I noticed that you did qualify those people as God’s people, would you classify the refugees as God’s people?

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