Friday 8 April 2016

Theology of Welcoming the Stranger

A Theology of welcome 

Throughout the world we are seeing restrictions on migration, sometimes with guards, documents, walls, money. So what does our Christian faith have to say about how we treat the stranger among us?

In the Old Testament in Leviticus 19: 33-34 it says “When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

There are more than 90 passages in the Bible that talk about caring for and welcoming the sojourner, migrant, foreigner, the “other” who is living with us. Migrants—regardless of their faith—were to be treated with care, honor, and dignity because they were created in God’s image.

The Old Testament prophets delivered some scathing protests against those Israelites, who failed to care for the the stranger among them (Mal 3:5).

Abraham, the father of the Jews and Muslims was called by God to leave his homeland in what is now Iraq and to migrate to the land of the Hebrews.
Some time later the Hebrews were taken into slavery in Egypt and many years later escaped to journey through a wilderness in search of a promised land.
Daniel was exiled in Babylon.

People “sojourned” for all sorts of reasons in biblical times. They were seeking a better life in a new land. They were drawn to the religion of another country (like Ruth). They were fleeing from violence and oppression in their own land and were seeking refuge in a new nation. 

So for all the religions that share the Old Testament, that is Jews, Christians and Muslims are commanded to  ‘love the stranger’ and to remember they once were strangers.
Jesus as a baby had to flee to Egypt with his parents. 
He reinforced this mandate to care for the stranger/sojourner. 
In his most extensive description of judgment day, Jesus said he will say: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt 25:35, 38). ‘Just as you did to one of the least of these... you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40).

In the story of the Good Samaritan the man didn’t check the half dead man’s passport before he helped him. 

Jesus went outside of accepted norms to welcome people who felt lost. So following him the church is the only organization that does not exist for itself, but exists for those outside of it and gives love, empties itself of love. (kenosis) This is what being a Christian is about, an outward looking attitude. 

A hospitable person, family, church, society will welcome those who are new and different in our communities because it makes our lives richer. Welcoming people is our calling, it is seeing Jesus in the face of the newcomer. 

We weep now for those who are suffering, we remember the call of Jesus to ‘welcome the stranger’ and we pray for and work for the dawning of a better world, a world where love has no borders or bounds. 
We don’t pick and chose the commands of Christ that suit our fancy. We bow to God and respond as we are taught is right.
We are Gods people on earth for a while. 
We are commanded to welcome the stranger.



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