The recent debate over illegal immigration recalled an interview I had with a prospective member almost six years ago. I was asked if I would report illegal aliens who might be evangelized and seek membership in our church. If they were to receive Christ and come to church, would I report them to the authorities?
I was never asked this question before, but I did not struggle with the answer. I said, no, I would not report them, but I would immediately begin to teach them that entering the country illegally is a crime against the state and therefore a sin against God. An illegal alien who receives Christ should seek to become legal here, in another country, or to return to his country of origin.
The argument against this is that our country has a moral obligation to help those who flee oppression and seek better opportunities for their lives including that of economic prosperity. I understand the issue and I am not unsympathetic to it. Yet, I know there are people in all parts of the world that seek a better life. Since 2010, more than 8.5 million immigrants have entered the United States including those entering unlawfully. Our country is gracious to provide a legal path to immigration for millions of people. Most wait their turn and there are millions of Green Cards still waiting to be issued. Obviously, this country cannot sustain much more large-scale immigration. There need to be laws to control it for the good of all, and yes for the economic welfare of those living here legally.
The question in my mind is do we sanction those who cross the border illegally to cut in line in front of those who choose to obey the law and take the legal path? Do we sanction those who are selfish enough to break the laws passed by the American people who fought and died to give us the laws by which we live? You might ask this question to those who labored to become naturalized and have taken up their places as law-abiding citizens.
While I do not say the motives of our politicians are always pure, and they always approach truth and justice for all, or are founded upon the love of Christianity, I do say the Christian principle is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The person who breaks the law to gain an advantage over another has shown neither passion for God’s way nor the American way.
I never thought I would be asked a question like this and perhaps should avoid it. However, the Bible does not avoid it. I find my response in Romans 13 that we are to obey the government that God ordains for our good. Our only exception is when government opposes God. I find the government does not oppose God with our immigration policy. We provide a means for legal immigration that is sustainable for the good of all and helps as best we can those living in oppression. While we deplore the awful choice of separating families at the border, our policy did not create the problem—breaking immigration law is the problem. We encourage repetition of the problem by providing sanctuary for those who are here illegally.
I also take an example from the Bible. Do you remember in Philemon the case of the runaway servant, Onesimus? Paul met him while in Rome and he was converted to Christ. Apparently, Onesimus had wronged his master by theft or some other harm and had run away. Onesimus’ crime was against his master and Roman society. Paul did not turn him in to authorities but encouraged him as a new brother in Christ to return to his master and right the wrong. We might argue social justice all day and the right to hold a forced servant, but still Paul told him to go back to his master for judgment. He interceded on his behalf, but he left the final decision to Philemon.
The point is that Christians obey the law and thereby obey Christ. Looking at illegal immigration from a Christian viewpoint, we don’t do right by doing wrong. It is paramount that Christians, and especially Christian pastors, obey the law or else be considered subversives which damages the gospel of Christ. Obviously, this article cannot provide answers for all arguments pro and con. We trust that obedience to God’s word is best and the consequences for doing it fall on Him who is the judge and justifier of all.
Pastor V. Mark Smith