After a member of my family converted to a different religion, Christian friends urged me to “convince” her to return to Jesus. I found myself first seeking to love my family member as Christ would—including in public places where some people frowned at her “foreign-looking” clothes. Others even made rude comments. “Go home!” one man yelled at her from his truck, not knowing or apparently caring that she already is “home.”
Moses taught a much kinder way to act toward people whose dress or beliefs feel different. Teaching laws of justice and mercy, Moses instructed the children of Israel, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The edict expresses God’s concern for all strangers, people vulnerable to bias and abuse, and it is repeated in Exodus 22:21 and Leviticus 19:33.
Therefore, when I spend time with my family member—at a restaurant, in a park, taking a walk together or sitting and talking with her on my front porch—I seek first to show her the same kindness and respect that I would want to experience. It’s one of the best ways to remind her of the sweet love of Jesus, not by shaming her for rejecting Him, but by loving her as He loves all of us—with amazing grace.
What attitudes do you hold about people who appear “different” or “foreign”? In what ways can you practice God’s edict to not mistreat a “stranger” or “sojourner” in your land?
The covenant people of God were to be distinctive and separate from the surrounding nations. This was primarily to protect them from worshiping false gods. Exodus 34:15 says, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.” God’s commands were protective, but that didn’t mean the people of Israel were to totally isolate themselves from foreigners. The word translated “foreigner” in Exodus 23:9 means to live among people who aren’t blood relatives. Because immigrants weren’t protected by family, they became dependent on the hospitality of the people where they lived—which the children of Israel had themselves experienced in Egypt during a time of famine (Genesis 50:15–21).