January 4, Wednesday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Open Borders or Walls?

Numbers 21:22-3 (NIV)

Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites: 22 “Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”23 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel.

4Having crossed different US-Mexico borders hundreds of times in several states, I’ve seen tall fences and even walls.  So, President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border isn’t an entirely new idea.  In contrast, some push for open-borders, while others advocate—in effect—a similar stance by opposing measures aimed to curve illegal immigration.  Regrettably, Trump’s wall (a logistic nightmare) beclouds the more fundamental question of whether America, as a sovereign country, has the right to secure its borders.  How should a believer think on this matter?

Last September, there was nothing out of the ordinary as I applied for a visa to enter this E. Asia country for the umpteenth time, until the replay came a day later—the $25 visa fee had jumped five times!  I was upset but that’s as far as it went: to enter any country as a foreigner, you must play by their rules, not yours.  You don’t have to like it and that’s your prerogative; sovereign states can place any stipulations they deem justifiable and that’s their prerogative.  A sovereign state has the right to admit only those who satisfy the requirements placed on them, even if they seem unfair to the outsiders.  The U.S. has that right inasmuch as Mexico who guards her southern borders with Guatemala very tightly.

State sovereignty is not a new concept—just ask Moses who, as the leader of a new nation on the move (from Egypt to Canaan) in the 15th century B.C., clearly understood that the Israelites couldn’t just barge into the sovereign state of the Amorites.  Therefore, he asked King Sihon for an official permit to pass through his land, assuring the king that they would not to take any of his nation’s resources.  The fact that Sihon still perceived Israel as a hostile entity makes sense geopolitically, prompting him to defend his nation’s border.

Having immigrated from S. Korea as a teenager in 1974 and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, the Lord has blessed my life in America, a nation that has enjoyed God’s favor for a long time: its educational system, freedom to worship and job market are equal to none.  No wonder so many people desire to come to this land of opportunity any way they can.  That, however, does not mean that anyone outside of this sovereign state has the right to cross the border illegally, without passport or visa.  Some of us can dedicate ourselves to be an advocate of change so that more people can enter this nation legally; but to call U.S. an anti-immigrant and xenophobic country for not permitting open borders is to hold America to a different standard not applied to other nations.

Having said all this, as kingdom people, we have good news to proclaim to those around us: that God breaks down the “dividing wall of hostility” among men (Eph. 2:14), because the veil separating all of us from a holy God has long been torn in two by Christ (Heb. 10:19).  Set your goals high: long to be a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20)—a far better place than America.

Prayer: Father, as our nation is going through many tumultuous changes, please help us, the believers, to be clear- minded and not “think” emotionally.  Please help us to be smarter when it comes to thinking about our sociopolitical issues.  And help us to love and respect those with whom we disagree.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 3


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Deuteronomy 2:30-3: But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. 31 And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’ 32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. 33 And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people . . ..

James 1:13-4: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

Questions to Consider

  1. When Sihon refuses to let the Israelites pass, God reveals to Moses His plan, which meant that Israel needed to respond militarily to Sihon’s attack. James 1:13 says that God does not tempt anyone but here, it says that God hardened the spirit of Sihon.  What do you think happened first?
  2. Geopolitically speaking, how would you describe what happened here? In other words, what is the worst way to settle any border dispute? (Those of you who are old enough remember, does Falkland Islands debacle ring a bell?).
  3. What is one sure way to make certain that we do not reach a point where God hardens our heart (Rom. 1:24-6; 2 Thess. 2:11-2)?

Note

  1. God does not harden our hearts first. In the case of Sihon, it was he who first decided to be inhospitable toward Moses, who merely had asked for a “pass”.  Sihon immediately launched an all out war against a people who merely wanted to pass through.  Only when this king wouldn’t relent from his ill-advised attack, did God harden his heart so that he would be defeated in the ensuing in war, thereby accomplishing God’s objective.
  2. The worst way to settle any border dispute is war, of course, and there have been many wars fought over this matter, including the battle fought between England and Argentina over the Falkland Islands in the 1980s. To the advocates of open border and/or illegal immigration, building a wall appears to be the final straw—I wonder how they feel about the Great Wall of China.
  3. Repentance! Don’t play with this thing.  In the spiritual world, if you insist on being an recalcitrant sinner, then God would remove His protection over you—which means the enemy, who prowls around like a roaring enemy looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8), will get a piece of you.

EVENING REFLECTION

4bWhether we like it or not, Donald Trump will be our next president—and the whole world knows about his many flaws.  So, why don’t we start praying that our next president will experience a profound spiritual change.  If the wicked king Manasseh was not outside of God’s reach (2 Chron. 33:12-3), then, the President-elect is well within God’s range of encountering His grace.  We, as Bible believing Christians, should cease from taking our cues from the media and academia that clearly have a different vision for what constitutes justice, freedom, and free speech; instead, let’s start listening to God who commands us to pray for “kings all those in authority” (1 Tim. 2:2).

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