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The Bible Approach to the Plight of Elian Gonzales

By Betty Miller

The History of Elian's Plight

In November of 1999, Elian Gonzales and 12 other people, including his mother, boarded a small boat.They were headed to the United States, seeking freedom from the Communist country of Cuba. On their journey, they encountered rough seas that caused their boat to sink. Six year old Elian was placed on an inner tube by his mother. Many of the passengers including Elian's mother and stepfather drowned. Elian was found two days later, floating 3 miles from Pompano Beach, Florida (in the same inner tube that his mother had placed  him in.)

At the date of this article, Elian's story is as follows: After arriving in the US, he was in the custody of his uncle who lives in Miami, Florida over the last few months. Elian's uncle wishes him to stay in the U.S., but Elian's father and Fidel Castro are demanding that he be returned to Cuba. Elian's situation has captured international attention because of the strong feelings of the populace in two countries:   Cuba -- Elian's homeland, and the USA -- the land to which he escaped. If Elian was allowed to stay in the U.S. he would achieve his mother's will/goal of having the opportunity of a better life and enjoying the freedom of living in the U.S.A.   Because of  legalities and the relationship between Cuba and the USA, the boy's father was sent to the USA to regain custody of his son.  This sparked even greater crowds of angry protestors in both countries to put pressure on their governments to control Elian's future by establishing who would have the custody over him.

In the USA, the streets of Miami filled with demonstrators, with cries to keep the boy here.  Elian's uncle refused a federal court order to turn the boy over to the his father and appealed the court order, demanding a lawful hearing. The hearing is now set in the month of May.  In the meantime, the US Federal officers sought to negotiate with Elian's relatives' lawyer for a peaceful turn-over to the boy's father. Because of their refusal to submit to the authorities, the Federal authorities decided to use force to capture the boy in his uncle's home and take him to his father.  

Americans watched in disbelief, as Federal agents, heavily armed, raided the home at the point of a gun and grabbed the child in a Gestapo type seizure. This was done in the early morning hours the day before Easter. He then was reunited with his father at an air base near Washington.  They are to remain in the US until the hearing for the appeal in May.

Which Side Is Right According to Bible Principles?

Christians on both sides of the issue (those praying for the boy to be united with his father, and those who want Elian to remain here with his uncle) intensified their prayers, each for asking for their desired outcome. Which side should we be on as Christians and how should we pray? How would God rule in this issue?  I am not going to approach this from a political issue, although the process for capturing Elian was certainly not the way most Americans would approve of.  Rather, let us look at it from a Biblical standpoint. Does God's Word have anything to say about such cases?   Are their principles in the Bible that would guide us as how we should pray for this situation? 

Actually, both sides of this issue have Biblical grounds for their feelings about this case.  The Bible clearly teaches that children are the parent's responsibility and that they have authority over their children, as they are gifts from the Lord. However, the Bible also teaches that we are to help the poor and afflicted and the strangers in our land.

Ephesians 6:1-4: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Ezekial 41:21: "So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. 23 And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord GOD."

Psalm 82:3-4: "Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked."

In the light of these scriptures, then how should we pray?  What about other custody cases in our nation where two parents are divided? Which parent should maintain custody over their children when the father and mother are each fighting over their children in divorce proceedings?  In cases like this how would the Lord settle the dispute? To answer these questions we must look at how God deals with men in relation to the laws of the Bible and His grace extended to men through Jesus Christ. 

How To Judge What Is Right According To The Bible

We have been given the Bible so we know how to judge according to God's Word. We are to see if things line up with the Word of God. The law was not made for the purpose of saving or justifying. It was made to show us our need of cleansing from sin and to point us to the great source of cleansing, Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Bible speaks of the law as a mirror to show us what kind of sinful people we really are.

"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:23-25).

It is obvious that a mirror (the law) cannot remove a spot from the face. Its work is to reveal the spot and to point the dirty one to the sink for the actual cleansing. The law, in like manner, only condemns the sinner by giving him knowledge of his condition, and then pointing him to the cross for true cleansing.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9)."

Paul further emphasizes this point in Galatians 2:16: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh by justified."

Law and grace do not work in competition with each other, but in perfect coordination. The law points out sin, and grace saves from sin. The law is the will of God, and grace is His undeserved favor and power to do the will of God. We do not obey the law in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Although we live in the dispensation of grace, and the Old Testament saints lived under the dispensation of the law, both are still valid today as Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." From this Scripture we can see that the law is still valid in the New Testament. The laws of the Bible tells us we are to keep the laws of our government as long as they do not contradict the laws of God.

How To Judge What Is Right For Elian

Now applying this in the case of Elian, the law of our land will make a ruling regarding his fate -- and all involved will have to abide by that ruling.   However, because our government is dealing with this as a political incident they are not taking into account the spiritual consequences that this boy will face as a result of their decision.  Strictly looking at this in the natural many people think Elian would have more opportunity by being raised in a free society so they want him to stay in the USA.  Others think it wrong for the boy to be denied the presence and influence of his own father in his life. However, many on both sides are forgetting this child's spiritual welfare.

God's heart and judgement for Elian would be that he receive the most important thing that any human being needs.  That need is that he be born again and receive eternal life. Wherever Elian is raised he and his family need the influence of the Bible and Christianity in his life.  At first glance, we would think surely that would be in our Christian nation of the USA.  However, because our nation has strayed from its Christian roots many people here are not being given a Christian witness when they come to this country.  In fact, the materialism, lust, pride, murder, racial strife and other ills are fostering a climate that is making it harder and harder for people to know the Lord.

Our nation is being called by God to return to Him. However, we are not seeing a national revival (yet).  In fact, some foreign nations are experiencing revival and seeing the power of the Holy Spirit touch lives in their homelands in a way far greater than what most of the churches in America are seeing at the present.. Even the church in Cuba over the last few years has experienced much growth in their midst, despite the Communistic government there.

If the court rules Elian is to return to Cuba with his father could we not pray and believe that he would be saved and used of God to show his people the way of salvation?  On the other hand, could we not also believe that if that would never happen there, that he be awarded custody to his uncle and remain here to find and serve God? As Christians, could we not pray and believe that the Lord will do what is right for Elian?  I believe prayer is a greater force for good than to get in strife and argue with other Christians over the fate of Elian. We must not limit what God can do in the life of this boy.  Daniel, in the Bible was taken captive to serve a Babylonian king yet, he was used mightily of God regardless of his circumstances.

We do have several guidelines that we suggest, in praying in these kinds of circumstances.  In the area of custody battles, girlfriend/boyfriend relationships, divorce and property disputes, legal suits, etc. we have found that it is not wisdom to side in prayer with people when we do not know all the circumstances and the condition of men's hearts. We would rather pray that the Lord's will be done in the matter and trust God and leave the outcome to Him.

Genesis 18:25b: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

This may not seem like a definitive answer to this complicated question. However, since God alone knows all hearts, He knows the place that is truly best for Elian.

Here are examples of  how to pray when two sides are warring: If a party requests prayer to get custody of a child in a divorce dispute, we usually pray this kind of prayer "Lord, we know it is  your will that children be raised in the 'nurture and admonition' of the Lord so we pray that this child will be raised in a Christian home." Agreeing with every request when one does not know the hearts of men and all the circumstances is sometime not in the best interest of the child. In regard to property disputes and suits, we can take the same position and pray that what the Lord sees is fair and equitable will be done in regard to both parties.

In areas where the will of God is not clearly defined from scripture, we should use common sense, wisdom and be led of the Spirit as how to pray.  Our most effectual prayer in cases where there is strife between parties is that the will of God be done for all involved and that things be settled peaceably and fairly according to the Word of God. This is our prayer for all involved in the Elian Gonzales case. We shall trust God, who sees all men's hearts, that Elian will be around those who will bring him closer to God and that God will bring good out of this ordeal for His glory. Bottom line is not where Elian's geographical destination is, but rather, where his eternal destination will be and that for Christians should be our real concern.

This article was taken from the Overcoming Life Digest (May/June 2000 Issue); click here to view Digest


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