Strangers Welcome Strangers
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. . . . Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33–34
When my husband and I moved to Seattle to be near his sister, we didn’t know where we would live or work. A local church helped us find a place: a rental house with many bedrooms. We could live in one bedroom, and rent the others to international students. For the next three years, we were strangers welcoming strangers: sharing our home and meals with people from all over the world. We and our housemates also welcomed dozens of international students into our home every Friday night for Bible study.
God’s people know what it means to be far from home. For several hundred years, the Israelites were literal foreigners—and slaves—in Egypt. In Leviticus 19, alongside familiar instructions like “Respect your mother and father” and “Do not steal” (vv. 3, 11), God reminded His people to empathetically care for foreigners, because they knew what it was like to be foreigners and afraid (vv. 33–34).
While not all of us as followers of God today have experienced literal exile, we all know how it feels to be “foreigners” on earth (1 Peter 2:11)—people who feel like outsiders because our ultimate allegiance is to a heavenly kingdom. We are called to create a community of hospitality—strangers welcoming strangers into God’s family. The hospitable welcome my husband and I experienced in Seattle taught us to extend welcome to others—and this is at the heart of being the family of God (Romans 12:13).
God promised the Israelites they would always have enough food to eat if they remained faithful to Him (Leviticus 26:3–5). Because God promised to provide for them, He commanded them to provide for the poor and the needy. God gave various harvest laws (Leviticus 19:9–10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 23:24–25; 24:19–22) to enable the poor to “work” for their food with dignity without having to resort to begging or stealing. We also see this compassionate law of gleaning in the story of Ruth (Ruth 2).