"Also you shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." - God, Exodus 23:9 NKJV
In the midst of all the laws given by God to the Israelites regarding violence, property, animals and idolatry, we see two almost identical statements telling the people of Israel not to oppress strangers. (Ex 22:21, Ex 23:9) Interesting. God doesn't want strangers - those not of the Israelite heritage - dwelling with the Israelites (Ex 23:32-33) because they could cause them to stray from their faith. However, Israel was still to be kind. God reminded them that they too were former "strangers".
How does this apply to us? Who is the "stranger" in a Christian's life? Commonly we think of strangers as people we do not know. However, let's stretch this a bit further because I think sometimes in our culture today it is easier to treat a stranger with kindness (or to not oppress them) than it is to embrace those we know. Could a stranger then be anyone who doesn't hold the values we hold? Could a stranger be that person in our life who isn't as far along in their spiritual or other maturity as we are? Basically, I don't think a stranger always needs to be a person we do not know.
So what are we to do with those strangers in our midst? One thing God tells us to do is to not oppress them. He also tells us that we were also once strangers. In my words, we should remember where we came from. We didn't just "arrive" today. When we were "strangers" in whatever area of life in which we are speaking, we might have been just doing the best we could do given our stage in life. Is that something to be oppressed for? You be the judge.
Connecting Learning With Living:
1) Who is a "stranger" in your life?
2) How can you treat them with kindness today?
3) What do you need to change in your own life so that you can be less "oppressive" to the "strangers" in your midst?
Janna Rust is a Life/Business Coach and Speaker dedicated to encouraging others towards lives God intends for them. For more information, visit her at www.purposefulpartnerships.com.