Friday, September 08, 2017

Five Guiding Categories: Biblical Considerations Expounded

This morning I posted five categories of Bible texts that demonstrate how the Christian individual’s treatment of immigrants and refugees can be guided.

The example of the Law of Moses shows that the resident foreigner or stranger was a recognized class under the law. They were objects of love and reminders of their own past (Leviticus 19:33-34). They were not to be taken advantage of. The law required equal justice, fair treatment and proper consideration for them, and they also enjoyed most of the same rights as the Israelites.[i] The law even made some provision for escaped foreign slaves.[ii] See Deuteronomy 23:15-16.

Our Christian duties to all teach us to treat all persons with hospitality, respect, honesty, patience, prayer, peace and love. There is no exclusionary clause in our Christian duties that remove foreigners and strangers from these exhortations. There is no excuse provided for Christians so that we can treat some people well and other people badly. We owe others love and kindness, and above all, the gospel (Mark 16:15, 1 Corinthians 10:33).

Like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were strangers in the land where they dwelt, so Christians are strangers in a strange land – citizens of a heavenly kingdom that is not of this world. Our Christian “otherworldliness” ought to constantly remind and explicitly teach us what it means to be foreigners, what it is like to be from somewhere else, and how the strangers in our land may feel (Hebrews 13:14). We should be able to relate. It is high time that we be shaken from our sleep and remember these things (Romans 13:10-12)!

The example and sayings of our Lord are the supreme exhibition of love and compassion on guilty sinners. His mercy extended to strangers as well as Jews (Luke 17:11-19), to the poor as well as the rich (Luke 4:18), to the outcast as well as the in-crowd (Luke 15:1-2).[iii] The taught the unteachable, reached the unreachable, touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable.

The character of God acquaints us with a view of a world larger than our own. God is Creator the heaven and the earth, and made all the people thereon of the one blood of Adam and Eve. He alone can say all souls are mine, establishing reverence how we come near each soul that belongs to him. Not only is God the creator and owner, but he is also the sustainer of all that is. He is judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). The creator, owner, sustainer and judge of all the earth is no respecter of persons.

Much more might be written, but the Bible presents a God who is creator and ruler of all. Our self-importance pails when we understand that fact. Yet that God has demonstrated through the Scriptures that he relates to all his creation throughout history, giving them command, precept and example to guide them in this world. The Christian individual’s treatment of immigrants and refugees can be guided unequivocally from these commands, precepts and examples.

[i] In some cases differences are noted – such as some dietary restrictions, leadership possiblities, usury. Cf. Deuteronomy 14:21, Deuteronomy 15:2-4, Deuteronomy 17:15, and Deuteronomy 23:20.
[ii] Verse 16 – he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best – suggests this is a foreign slave or servant, perhaps escaping from tyranny and oppression to live among God’s people. This would not have applied universally to all servants who fled from their masters, since the Law of Moses itself allowed for the institution of slavery. Certainly we can see some application in the present, especially in the cases of refugees escaping tyranny and oppression, death and destruction.
[iii] Jesus put the welfare of people before strict interpretation and traditions of the law – such as healing folks on the Sabbath (Cf. Luke 13:10-17) – and demonstrated the hypocrisy of folks who would water their oxen or their asses on the Sabbath while objecting to healing on the Sabbath!

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