I suppose most of us have, at one time or another, been strangers in a strange land. And we know how disconcerting it can be – especially in a foreign environment where we cannot communicate in our native language. We feel vulnerable, uncomfortable, uncertain and out of place. How wonderful in such circumstances to recognise the face of a friend, to see their reassuring smile, their warm handshake or embrace – to feel safe again in the knowledge that you have a companion, an intermediary and guide in this unfamiliar landscape – because this is their home.
In days of mass immigration, when the volume of strangers seems at times to overwhelm communities and services in our nation there is a grave danger that the Christian, along with others in our community, reacts in a very negative and sometimes violent way towards the stranger.
In the politics and debate that surrounds these issues we need always, if we are indeed the people of God, to see the stranger as he does. Nothing – negative press reporting, unkind or violent acts by immigrants, their different way of life, or anything else excuses the Christian in showing a negative, demeaning, condescending or unkind attitude towards the stranger.
God singles out three kinds of people he wishes us always to lavish with compassion, love and assistance – The Stranger – The Fatherless and The Widow –
“He [God]administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:18 & 19
“You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge.
“When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
“… That the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” From our abundance we must always provide for the stranger. Our ultimate blessing as individuals, Church and Nation depends on it. I hear many good arguments and reasons as to why this is a dangerous philosophy – and it may well be – but it is not negotiable as far as God is concerned. So whether it is a poor Mexican Immigrant struggling to support his family in the USA or a Syrian Refugee, vulnerable, disoriented and afraid on the streets of a city in the UK – God’s heart towards them is the same – one of compassion and love. Dare we stand and oppose him? Surely not! On the contrary we are called to be their friend – the person with a smile of acceptance, love and friendship.
Ultimately though the words of Jesus sound loudest in relation to our attitude and behaviour towards the stranger –
“I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
Matthew 25:43 & 45
I have become alarmed in recent days to see Christian people who appear to have been blinded by the rhetoric of the press and others in their disdain for and opposition to the stranger. Sadly also there are some who, because of their theology, have abandoned the heart of the Father all together and stand opposed to Him in this regard. May God have mercy on us and always give us eyes to see The Stranger through his heart. Who knows – one day we might be that stranger …