Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

In the News: Compassion and the Rule of Law

Image Everyone is aware of the burgeoning crisis that is playing out on the southern borders of the United States. A rapid and large number of illegal immigrant children are entering the U.S. every day.

This large number of Central and South American children (many of them unaccompanied by adults) is overwhelming the resources of border authorities, leading to health concerns both for the children and the communities where they are housed, and fueling a great political debate regarding how to manage the situation.

Unfortunately, the debate is often framed as a conflict between compassion and the rule of law. Some see the crisis as a humanitarian issue, and emphasize the need to take care of the innocents who have come into our country. Others view the influx of illegal immigrants as a legal issue and call for immediate and indiscriminate deportation. What is most troubling is the idea that the concepts of compassion and lawfulness are mutually exclusive. Some insist that a call for lawfulness makes one hard-hearted. Others contend that an appeal to compassion requires one to altogether ignore precept. Interestingly, both sides will refer to the Bible to defend their contention.

The Bible clearly teaches the rule of law. It is central to understanding man’s responsibility to God, as well as others. For example, in Romans 13:1-2, Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” This passage clearly teaches that not only does breaking the law bring consequence, but that such consequence is deserved (cf. 1 Peter 4:15-16).

The Bible just as clearly, by example and precept, teaches the importance of compassion. It is seen in the willingness of the early disciples to sell their goods to share with their brethren (cf. Acts 2:44-45); and most clearly in God’s compassion shown to man in the sending of His son (cf. John 3:16).

The lesson? Compassion and lawlessness are not mutually exclusive. Any concept of the rule of law that does not allow for charity is just as flawed as the attitude of the unforgiving servant (cf. Matthew 18:21-25). Conversely, to ignore the importance of obedience to the law is to advocate anarchy, leading to dissolution in society.

The issue is complex, and the answers can not be arrived at in a sound bite. The problem has created an insupportable burden to our country’s infrastructure. It is a problem created by partisan politics, poverty, crime, incompetent parenting, and the reality that “the poor you have with you always” (John 12:8).

As usual, we Christians can be unduly influenced by the media and the culture around us. We should resist any efforts to squelch a proper response to the problems that present themselves in a sinful and imperfect world. As Christians, we should show compassion for our fellow man, preach the saving gospel of our Lord and Savior, and realize that in this world, there are no simple and complete answers to the evil that exists. Fortunately, this world is not our home!