Lev. 19 33-34 NIV
33“ ‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
The world today is full of strangers and equally full of dangers. Today as politics flare and immigration soars the Church seems split on what to do for the foreigner. Not just the foreigner of other countries, but for some their very neighbors may seem foreign to them. So apart from all politics or laws what can we find biblically for the foreigner and stranger?
Mercy is the key find. The part of Leviticus above comes as part of the Law of Moses. It was a God given rule book for Israel to follow as they prepared and entered the Holy Land. This people had been enslaved for years in Egypt and now as they became free God wanted them to see and learn from that.
The Jews had not always been slaves. Geneses speaks of Joseph a Jew becoming a second in command of the people. However, Exodus opens with a very dark beginning.
Exodus 1: 8-14
8Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9“Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13and worked them ruthlessly. 14They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
A king was born who knew nothing about Joseph. He did not know the history but saw that many of this people were being born. So in fear and want of control he enslaved them. He beat them an oppressed them down.
God having seen this tells His people that they will not treat a person like that who comes from a different land. They will treat them as an equal. One misconception is that this rule marks a ban on slavery. Not so as the culture and Law had rules for keeping slaves and how to become a slave if one decided. It however was unless chosen to be temporary and would last no more than seven years.
Now what does this mean today? Most of us in the west are not enslaved, nor do we honestly fathom what that means. Today for us it means we have a duty to treat all people equally and with compassion. The Jewish people were not just an ethnic group but all related. Abraham is in every persons line that claimed natural Jewish heritage. To treat both equal would be to treat them as family. Distant family yes, but as family.
Today as you look around see the strangers in your life and try to reach out. Think of them as part of your family. Show them love that you may show an uncle or a cousin. If we the Church want to seek and save the lost for Jesus it should always be our outlook. Remember that any that comes to Christ is a Child of God and is in our family forever. If we really want people to become part of our eternal family then let us reach out to them now treating them as our earthly family.