I am writing today in response to Christianity Today’s article discussing whether Jesus would agree with the UK’s decision to keep Shamima Begum from returning to the UK. She decided to leave her country to marry a man from ISIS and now wants to return home. The United States has a similar scenario. Both countries have revoked the citizenship of these ISIS brides.
I am not here to discuss whether we should or should not allow these women back into their respective countries. I want to discuss the topic of the CT article: would Jesus agree with these governments?
In the article, a former Anglican bishop reflected upon the Prodigal Son. The Bible speaks to forgiveness and unity. The Prodigal Son was welcomed back in his home, despite all the ill-will he had caused. To that point, his brother did not understand why their father would so openly welcome back the son who had treated them so badly. The Anglican Bishop believes that Jesus would not agree with the UK and USA governments.
I would like to openly disagree with the Bishop. My first disagreement comes in using this parable as a backdrop. The parable is speaking to relationships, it is not speaking to the rule of law. Nowhere in this parable is the son exempt from the consequences of his actions. In fact, when he was foolish and spent all the money he had taken from his father, he was stuck with the grueling task of taking care of pigs. The son suffered the consequences. However, relationally, he was restored.
If we continue with the story, despite it not being appropriate, I still do not agree with the Bishop. When the son returned home, he was repentant. He sought his father’s forgiveness.
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
This may seem like a benign statement, but it is very important. The restoration came after the repentance. The son did not come back looking to be restored to the family, he came back asking to serve the family, to pay back for the ill he had done.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
The son did not come back expecting to return to his former station. He came back willing to beg his father to just be a servant. He knew that what he had done was wrong and that he deserved whatever his father dished out. So let’s look at this woman who was formerly from the UK.
Shamima Begum only wanted back in the UK after her first two sons had died. She wanted to gain entry to protect her third son. She openly admits that she did not even consider leaving ISIS until she became pregnant with their third child.
When asked about why she joined and if she knew what ISIS did, she admits that she was well aware of the beheadings and such. She was OK with it.
She continued by saying that “I just was hoping that for the sake of me and my child, they could let me come back.”
When asked about whether she was dangerous, she replied that she was just a housewife and that the UK government doesn’t have any proof that she did anything wrong. Keep in mind that many survivors of ISIS have given testimony that housewives are the ones that prepare them with makeup and clean them up so that they can be gang raped by ISIS members. In addition, the military in the UK says they have evidence to use against Shamima Begum, should she face the UK judicial system.
Lastly, when asked if she had made a mistake, she says she doesn’t regret it. She’s glad that she married a terrorist and she had a good time under ISIS. She just couldn’t take it anymore.
Does this sound like a repentant child? Does this in anyway sound like the Prodigal Son? No, it doesn’t. Has she admitted her sins? Has she repented of them? Is she seeking forgiveness?
The answer to all of those is no.
I have multiple views on how I think this should play out, but they aren’t for this blog. What the UK government should or shouldn’t do is their decision alone. But to compare Shamima Begum to the Prodigal Son is ill informed and dangerous.
Should she be forgiven? Yes, undoubtedly. Whether or not she asks for it. That is what we are to do as Christians.
Should she suffer consequences for her actions? Yes, undoubtedly. Unless the governing bodies decide to offer mercy, she should suffer those consequences. Nothing in the Bible, or the story of the Prodigal Son, says otherwise. The decision for mercy comes only from those that are hurt by her actions and those representing them.
Forgiveness does not mean that one does not have consequence. We can see that even in the story of the Prodigal Son, the son was willing to accept the consequence.
I would encourage all Christians to forgive Shamima Begum her atrocities. However, I see no reason she should forego the consequences bestowed upon her. She has sought no forgiveness and has no remorse for what she is done. God is never in favor of rewarding evil.