Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So Go created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV)
From the opening pages of Scripture, we see that Christians are meant to have a high view of people. This is not to deny what happened in Genesis 3 with the fall into sin. As children of the fall, we are all rebels against God and in desperate need of Jesus. But, the fact remains that every human being is made in the image of God. We are to view each person we encounter as a person with intrinsic worth and value. They are not to be used by us for our gain. We do not climb over others to better ourselves. We do not see life as a dog-eat-dog world.
This is why the Bible calls us to love and do good to others, as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:15—a verse that focuses on one another in the family of God and everyone, which is just that. This means that we seek the good even of our enemies—giving them food if they’re hungry and water if they’re thirsty (Romans 12:19-21).
Our attitude of goodness-seeking for all people extends not only to those we can see, greet, and know, but also to developing persons in the womb. We view personhood as not starting at birth but much, much sooner. David spoke of God knitting him together in his mother’s womb so that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
A child in the womb is a person in God’s image, not simply a blob of tissue or conglomeration of cells growing inside another’s body. This is why orthodox Christianity is Pro-Life.
The worldview of those who support abortion is flawed by utilitarianism. The difference between a fetus being something to be cherished or something to be destroyed is its usefulness to the woman carrying the child. Is the child wanted by the woman? Is the child not going to be an excessive burden upon the life of the woman? If the child is unwanted and/or deemed burdensome, then the child can be aborted upon demand.
It is ultimately the attitude: “You add no value to my life, and might even cost me more than I am willing to share, therefore I will not let you into my world.”
Rightly, conservative Christians in our culture have long said, “This is wrong! The child in the womb is valuable because it is a child. She deserves to be born into this world!”
Recently, President Trump referred to certain other countries using a far-from-flattering term when discussing immigration. Many have criticized his message, but some under the banner of “conservative Christianity” have supported it.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said in an interview with the Washington Post:
“What a lot of people miss is, America is not a church where everyone should be welcomed regardless of race and background. I’m glad Trump understands the difference between a church and country. I support his views 100 percent, even though as a pastor I can’t use that language.”
“The country has the right to establish what would benefit our nation the most. I don’t think there’s anything racist about it at all.”
“I wouldn’t let the language obscure the point he’s making: Why would we allow people who will not benefit our country? We have the right to screen [refugees] based on the economic benefit they might bring, and we can establish the criteria we want to use.”
At the core, Jeffress uses the same logic to restrict certain groups of people from entering the country as abortion lobbyists use to restrict babies from entering life outside the womb. On the one hand it is perceived value to the person and on the other hand it is perceived value to the nation.
Both present a utilitarian mindset that view a person as less than a person. Person X is only valuable to you if they add something to your life.
At one point in the recent past, the focus of the immigration debate was on national security. Though we might disagree on what the best options and solutions are, most would agree that national security is a legitimate concern when it comes to immigration policy. The mindset now being peddled by certain politicians and supported by figureheads like Jeffress is on a different plane.
This mindset says to potential immigrants: “Whether or not you can join us depends on how we view your worth to us.”
When we view people as being in the image of God, however, the question is not: “What value can you add to my life?” But rather: “How can I help enrich your life?” This is why Paul wrote in Philippians, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.”
There is an inherent pride in social utilitarianism—a pride that reeks of Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
Yes, Jeffress is right—the nation is not the church. However, we Christians have always sought to influence the values of our nation based on our faith in Jesus. A nation that treats people of all backgrounds as valuable is more godly than one that assigns worth based on what we think we can gain.
The President’s attitude parroted by Jeffress has much in common with those who advocate for abortion. And we should reject this attitude in the immigration debate as much as we reject it in the abortion debate.
As Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
May we see our nation as a place where people can come to better themselves because they will be valued, not as a place where they’re only welcomed if we think they can better us.