ByFaith asked four pastors and missionaries, all of them with years of experience with Hispanic immigrants, this question: How should the fact that illegal immigrants have knowingly broken the law affect our attitudes toward them?

One pastor in Florida said: “I don’t ask the immigrants we help whether they are here legally or not. It’s incumbent upon us to love our neighbors and to help meet their needs.

But I take a different stance about those south of the border. Those who want to come here illegally shouldn’t do it. But we can’t close our doors to those who are already here. We’re still called upon to love mercy and act justly toward them.

The sad part is that illegals often come here wanting to provide for their families back home—but the reality is that their absence often deteriorates the family more than if they’d never left.”

Alex Villasana:

In many cases, we don’t know why people are breaking the law (whether it’s for a family member in need, for example). So my attitude should be to try to understand why they’ve come to the U.S., what their needs are, and their reality here.

But I disagree with those who put water bottles in the desert for illegals crossing the border. I think it’s better to discourage that behavior.

An illegal Mexican immigrant visited the church I pastored in Houston and asked for advice on what he should do. We talked and prayed about it, and it didn’t seem to me that he had a good reason to be here. I counseled him, “For your own good and for the good of your family, I think you should go back.” And he did.

Another illegal couple had become Christians after they moved to the U.S. They were concerned about the lies they had told, and I counseled them to tell the truth to the authorities. They had the mindset that they would be at peace either way: whether they were deported back to Mexico and would help plant a church there, or whether they would stay in our church community in Houston. The authorities let them stay, and that man is a deacon in the church today. It’s a great story of Christians having a big view of God.

Alex Villasana, a Mexican national (both he and his wife have green cards, their two children are U.S. citizens) is planting a PCA church in Norcross, Ga. 

Travis Hutchinson: 

We must show hospitality to the alien among us. The state and the kingdom of God do not have the same interests, so we shouldn’t get caught up in the tenor of national politics on this issue.

Violating immigration law is not the same thing as committing murder, though some have equated the two. Our missionaries overseas violate immigration laws all the time. So the question to me is, why do we treat illegal immigrants differently than we treat congregants who speed in traffic or lie on their taxes?

We’re trying to enfold our Hispanic community members into our church. Instead of establishing another church, we’re trying to welcome them into our existing family. It’s hard, but it’s what the gospel is all about.

Travis Hutchinson is pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Ga. The church offers blended services (English and Spanish together) in an increasingly Hispanic community.

Al Guerra:

Christians are not thinking gospel-centered when it comes to this issue. They reveal a confusion of sword with cross, and the state with the gospel.

Jesus did not do any background checks, and He didn’t question the reason for anyone’s sins or oppression, but instead ministered respectfully and gracefully to all. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ embedded in our attitude is the only rule of conduct for ministering to sinners, even illegal immigrants. Are we servants of the gospel or enforcers of the state?

However, I believe that Christian illegals, if they can’t get legal papers to stay, should go back to their countries out of their relationship to the lordship of Christ.

Al Guerra is a Cuban-born pastor to Hispanics in Chicago, who is getting his doctorate of ministry degree through Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

Is it right to love illegal immigrants?  Read the article here.