In an interview by Joyce Chang, Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief, says the Church needs to
become a place of refuge, welcoming these immigrations in our midst. This begins with our language, in choosing not to use words such as ‘alien’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ to isolate and define this group of people by their actions.
It is not to those who have overstayed their visas that we owe kindness, but rather it is to God that we owe this kindness to them. Nothing they have done puts us in their debt, but everything we have makes it our bounden duty to show forth the righteousness of God, both in the magistrate’s due execution of the law and in individual citizens’ loving treatment of those who have broken the law. The righteousness of God has been revealed in his Son’s vicarious death for our sins and resurrection for our being pronounced just; and it is in mystical union with the Son of God, today, that Christian believers both are counted righteous and become righteous. In Christ, incorporated into his Body, we must all pay reverence to his dying for the whole human race. As men who have broken the law of God and witnessed the awesome majesty of his word, we can uphold the rule of law and still act as a society that knows the grace of God; for it is by this very grace that we even have the rule of law sustained.
This is not a matter of giving up language expressing that these people have broken the law and continue to live in breach of that law. He who has broken the law has made himself a criminal, and he will not be set right by nicer terms. The justice of God demanded not a nice glossing over of our trespasses but the death of God’s only-begotten Son. Likewise, softer terms will do nothing to set things right, even according to human ability. The problem with illegal immigrant is not that it names a lawbreaker a lawbreaker: if the phrase be problematic, the problem is that it may give the impression that certain persons, not certain acts, are illegal. The phrase need not be so interpreted, since a fast runner is someone who runs fast, and a slow thinker is someone who thinks slowly; but the potential for a false impression is where, if anywhere, the problem is. Naming someone by his breach of the law nowhere exceeds the terms even the New Testament uses.
Nor is it a matter of giving up language expressing that these people who have stayed illegally are outsiders.
For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: he doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
To be hospitable to strangers, to welcome guests, one has to know who is a guest and who already belongs. One must, in other words, call them strangers. It is by recognizing a stranger that we recognize the God who knows him, and in no way else can we love this stranger with the love of God. To attempt to love him with another love, a love not of God, is only to give something else under the name of love, falsely attributing to it the fairest name.
No, what I think we should do is call people illegal immigrants and strangers; but we must learn reverently to see illegal immigrants as persons to be loved despite their offences, and strangers as persons to be loved because they are strangers.