Should We Love Illegal Aliens?

Foreign immigrants in any country always present a challenge of making our Christian faith relevant to real life issues facing us. Here in Korea, like in America and in other countries, the issue of illegal work/immigration is always a concern of common experience and conversation.

These past several weeks, I've been meeting and hearing about TNTs or illegal workers here in Korea. They number by the thousands and they are a subject of constant massive crackdowns and arrests by the Korean police. This gets me to reflect deeply on the practice of my faith.

As Christians, how should we respond to illegal workers and aliens? We need to have a biblical answer to this. As the Apostle Peter reminds us, "Always be prepared to give to every man who asks you the reason (apologia) for the hope that lies within you”(1 Peter 3:15).

The call is for us not to be like Pharisees who only care about religious matters. And they didn't care about applying God's truth to the more mundane needs of people. Jesus said there are weightier matters, like salvation. But the less weighty matters also need to be addressed as well.

In Mt 23:23 we read "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

Most illegal workers and immigrants simply hope to improve their lot. They left their impoverished nations to do even lowly, "dirty," undesirable jobs beyond their shores. Many Filipinos and other foreign workers here in Korea are poor and came here to live their lives.

So, what should the Christian response be to the illegal aliens and workers in Korea and in other parts of the world who are mostly poor people? Scriptures show 2 principles on how the problem must be solved -- mercy and justice. These two values seem contradictory and in tension with each other. But we must remember that mercy and justice were both satisfied and met at the cross of Christ.


The first principle must be the showing of mercy to the poor and to

Mt 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." / Exodus 12:9: "You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt." / Deut. 15:11: "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.' / Deuteronomy 24:19-21: "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. "When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow." / Lev 19:10: 'Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger." / Deut 24:14 "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns."

“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? —James 2:2-5


A primary justice principle is found in Romans 13. The injunction says that governments must wield the sword in defense of the righteous. Otherwise, they are not legitimate before God. It is plain in that passage that the government must be a terror to evildoers. That would include lawbreaking illegal aliens.

“Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”—Romans 13:3,4

There is a principle of "proportionality" that Jesus laid down when it comes to punishment. It comes to us in common parlance, as “the punishment must fit the crime.” We can see this in the following passage:

Lu 12:48 47 "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.

There are illegal aliens who migrate to another country for criminal reasons. Some of them bring illegal drugs. Some have gang interests or terrorism as primary goal. These should be treated differently than those who are simply trying to subsist or keep their families together. Both types of illegal aliens are worthy of some sort of penalty for disobeying the laws. But they ought to be dealt with differently. In the case of the criminal types, they should be deported immediately and dealt with more severely under our criminal code.

In sum, my take of Scriptures is that if you want to feed illegal workers and aliens and provide material help for them, then that is a godly thing to do. Many of our churches and even some local people are already doing this to their culture’s credit. However, it should never be that they are shown special favor over those who are here legally or to their detriment.