17For the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.(Deuteronomy 10:17-20)
Strangers. Who are your strangers? I often think of “strangers” as people whom I don’t know. But I think something more important is at work in Deuteronomy. Strangers aren’t just people you don’t know, they are people who are distinctly different from you: foreigners, people of a different color, people who speak a different language, people who aren’t from here. The text assumes that the people of God, Israel, are “at home” where they are, and there are others among them who are not “at home” and are strangers.
The text works because it reminds Israel: You were strangers once. You were foreigners. You were in a strange land, not at home, and you know what it’s like to be lonely, vulnerable, unemployed and unemployable, despised, oppressed, subject to forced labor and endless debt. You know, people, what it was like. And now there are strangers among you. So love them.
In this text, it’s also clear that “love” doesn’t mean “have nice warm feelings.” It says God loves strangers, providing them food and clothing. And then it says: You love strangers, too. Provide them food and clothing. Welcome them among you and make sure they are taken care of if they can’t take care of themselves quite yet. The Bible frequently mentions God’s care for widows and orphans, who are the most vulnerable in society, and that care is always material. And that care is always assumed to be shared by God’s people.
In the American context, most of us live in some kind of metropolitan area and we are surrounded by people different from us, strangers, other languages spoken, other foods and smells, different religions. Even though we may try to escape the stranger with our segregated housing and lives, we can’t. And escaping the stranger has never been the biblical mandate for how to live at home when others among you are not at home. The mandate has always been to love them.
Here are my questions out of this text:
Who is your stranger? What race, foreign nationality, religion, or lifestyle doesn’t fit your experience?
Who are the ones around you that God is calling you to love?
Do you remember a time when you were the stranger, the not “at home,” or the one in need? Did someone befriend you? Were you compeltely excluded? How does that experience affect how you treat strangers?
At this moment in American culture and politics, there’s a lot of talk about strangers, especially the ones who do not have legal documentation to be here. Aside from what you think about immigration laws, how does this text speak to how people of faith respond to these strangers?