The Wall, the Ban, & the Apostle Paul

Dear Mr. President,

I’m going to get into some policy today. And I’m going to be talking about it particularly as a person of faith, and more specifically as a Christian, a faith you also profess.

It’s about the wall and the travel ban.

They’re difficult subjects, and I don’t want to gloss over the very real issues of national security and safety.

Of course, we need to be safe. Of course we need to vet people coming into our country who might wish to harm other people.

I don’t think a wall or a travel ban do that. But I’m not going to talk about that. It’s been discussed at length in other places, and it’s a debate where good people with good intentions can disagree.

What worries me much more than a wall or a travel ban is the heart behind it.

I don’t know your heart. I only know the things you say in public.

So I want to remind you of something the apostle Paul said, as one Christian to another. Paul was talking about Jews and Gentiles, but this could obviously be applied to any two groups who hate each other, especially on the basis of religion. If you want to look it up to see the context, it’s Ephesians 2:14-16. This is from the New International Version.

For he [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

I understand your fear of people from a political perspective. People hurt each other.

But let’s not kid ourselves. That’s not limited to people from outside our borders.

Christians are called to something else. Reconciliation. Bringing people together.

We can’t do that with walls or travel bans.

That’s the easy way. Dare I say a cowardly way?

Rather than reaching out bravely to people we are afraid of, people who are different from us, people who threaten our way of life and values (or seem to until we really get to know them), we can just avoid them. Build a wall. Don’t let them come in.

Jesus rejects easy, fearful answers every single time. He wasn’t afraid of the people who killed him. He used them to destroy barriers, to create peace. To reconcile them to God and to each other.

Your favorite book of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. It says in the fifth chapter that God makes us new and gives us the ministry of reconciliation. It’s hard bring people together or to bring them to God with a wall or an ocean between us.

Is it practical to have our theology drive our politics? I think so.

Is it safe? Maybe not.

But what if it is? What if bringing people together and honestly working out our differences is safer than staying apart? The framers of the Constitution surely believed that. They supported free speech and assembly, and they created a form of government that valued dissent and rejected having one religion in charge.

What if, like Paul in the sixth chapter of 2 Corinthians, we could say we “displayed purity, knowledge, patience, and generosity” in the face of “beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger”?

Wouldn’t that cause actual change?

What if, as Paul says later in that chapter, we “carried the weapons of righteousness” instead of increasing our defense budget?

Perhaps then God would respond as Paul says he will:

I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation.Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation!

Let it be so.


Teresa Jackson

All scriptures are from the Common English Bible except where noted.