The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself. Leviticus 19:34
I worship in a church located in a large, open field—a rare commodity on the island of Singapore (we’re just twenty-five miles long and fifteen miles wide). Some time back, people from abroad who work in my country started gathering on the church property for a picnic every Sunday.
This evoked a range of responses from fellow churchgoers. Some fretted about the mess the visitors would leave behind. But others saw this as a divine opportunity to extend hospitality to a wonderful group of strangers—without even leaving the church grounds!
The Israelites must have faced similar issues in their time. After they settled in their new land, they had to grapple with how to relate to other peoples. But God expressly commanded them to treat foreigners like their own kind, and to love them as themselves (Leviticus 19:34). Many of His laws made special mention of foreigners: they were not to be mistreated or oppressed, and they were to be loved and helped (Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19). Centuries later, Jesus would command us to do the same: to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
May we have God’s heart to love others as ourselves, remembering that we too are sojourners on this earth. Yet we have been loved as God’s people, treated as His own.
The story of Ruth (a Moabitess) offers a moving illustration of “loving the foreigner.” The pagan nation of Moab was situated just east of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were descended from Moab, the son of Lot (Genesis 19:37). During the exodus and throughout the reigns of Saul and David, the Moabites were frequently at war with Israel.
In the time of the judges, Naomi and Elimelek and their sons settled in Moab to escape a famine in Israel (Ruth 1). During their stay, Elimelek died, the sons married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah), and then the sons also died. With no one to care for them, Naomi and Ruth left Moab and returned to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner (who may have been despised because of her heritage).
When they arrived, “the barley harvest was beginning” (v. 22). As a widow, Ruth was allowed to gather the leftover grain after the harvesters had gone through. “As it turned out,” she ended in the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelek’s (2:3). But it was no coincidence. Boaz’s kindness resulted in Ruth and his place in the ancestry of King David (and Jesus) (Matthew 1:5–16).
What would it look like for you to extend kindness to a stranger?