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“A Christian Civic Leader’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis”

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As it became clear one of the Paris terror attackers traveled to France as a Syrian refugee, I rushed to social media, made calls, and even wrote letters to oppose Syrian refugees coming to Tennessee. In the wake of this protective stance made by many, I received a Facebook post from an old friend who was a missionary in the organization my wife and I served as associate missionary staff years ago. It was essentially a rebuke for my stand to keep the refugees out of Tennessee. He quoted selected scripture, and suggested I had somehow lost my way. I never second-guessed my decision as I returned to my Bible to answer the question: “How should a Christian resolve the dilemma of giving Christ-like charity while protecting our citizens from attack?”

In the Bible’s Book of Romans – a compilation on the basics of the Christian life – Paul is writing to the members of the Church at Rome. In chapter thirteen, he addresses how Christians should interact with government with exceedingly clear text recording God’s expectations of government:

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.”

As an institution, God expects the government to punish individuals who choose to commit wrong and to honor those who live decently. This highlights two clear purposes God has for government leaders. First, we’re to establish an environment that encourages people to adhere to a set of values, yielding a good and honorable life and a secure society. Further, the individual gain of a “clear conscience” results as a confirmation.



This passage is equally clear about what a person should expect from government. Thus, the second purpose for government is to restrain evil and protect the innocent. Civil leaders have a responsibility, an expectation to serve as tools of justice in the institutional role of government.

As a Tennessee elected official, one of my critical responsibilities is to protect the citizens of our state, which includes fostering the expectation for…