Illegal immigration has become a volatile issue, especially in the U.S. Many have raised their voices passionately in their condemnation of illegal immigration, while others defend it just as fervently. The issues raised by the presence of illegal immigrants have generated heated debate among politicians, educators, co-workers, families, friends and most recently, a heated election. Sadly enough, the church has been drawn into the fray over illegal aliens as well, with Christians on both sides seeking to justify their positions based on their own personal beliefs.
So, what does the Bible say about those who enter a country illegally? What should be the Christian response to illegal aliens or illegal immigrants and toward those who condone illegal immigration? The first consideration is the law of the land. Those who illegally enter any country violate that nation’s laws as well as the laws of God. Believers are torn between showing compassion and mercy to the illegal aliens who seek help and not wanting to violate God’s word.
Sadly, we have brothers and sisters in Christ fighting over the issue of illegal immigration when the Bible is quite clear on what the Christian response should be: “The LORD detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9; see also 28:5; Psalm 5:4–5). When we condone criminal activity, we no longer “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). The Bible makes it clear that those who violate laws are sinning, as are those who support or assist them in breaking the laws (Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–14; Titus 3:1–2). This principle applies to illegal immigrants and those who condone their continued violation of the law.
Peter’s reference to “those who do wrong” in 1 Peter 2:14 refers to lawbreakers. These are to be punished by the governing authorities. In Romans 13 Paul says that the government is in the best position to judge wrongdoers and find solutions to the problem of lawlessness. Government has the divine authority to deal with illegal immigrants who refuse to comply with the laws of the land. Now, the government authorities may or may not exercise their legal and divine right to enforce the laws, but that doesn’t change the fact that the church should not knowingly support illegal activity. To aid and abet illegal aliens—people who cross borders illegally—is sin. Regardless of emotional appeals and mitigating circumstances, the initial act of coming into a country illegally is sin.
At the same time, as Christians, we have to separate our attitude toward the act of entering the country illegally from our attitude toward illegal immigrants themselves. Illegal aliens are individuals for whom Jesus died. The first obligation of a Christian is to express Christlikeness in all our thoughts, words, and deeds (Romans 8:29). There is no room for hatred toward illegal aliens who seek work, refuge from danger and persecution, or a better life for themselves and their families. Christian compassion must be shown toward those who would risk their lives in a dangerous attempt to cross a border. Acts of hatred or violence toward illegal immigrants are never to be tolerated by those who name the name of Christ.