Leviticus 19:33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
God is giving the Israelites rules for living as God’s people, rules that reflect God’s own values and priorities. In this passage, and in many other places in scripture, God directs the Israelites to be welcoming to aliens – people who are not ethnically Jewish or native to their land, and are willing to live by the same rules, values, and expectations as the people of Isreal. V.34 says they should treat aliens as “the citizen among you” and they should “love the alien as yourself”. Jesus says essentially the same thing in Mark 12:13 “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus describes this as the greatest commandment of scripture, right after “love the Lord your God…”.
Why would God direct the Israelites in this way? We’re told in v.34 “for you were aliens in the land of Egypt”. You may recall the Jews lived in Egypt for 400 years, first with the favor and blessing of Pharaoh, but later as slaves. They were terribly mistreated and so were set free under the leadership of Moses. Hence, one expression of gratitude to God would be to treat aliens in their own land differently than they were treated in Egypt. It makes sense.
The bible teaches that we too were alienated from God by virtue of our sin, but in Jesus we have received forgiveness of sin and have been claimed as children of God to live in the Kingdom of God. One of the values of the Kingdom is the just treatment of the alien. We aren’t to reject them or oppress them, but to welcome them as sisters and brothers, subject to the same privileges and responsibilities as natives.
Ideally this value would be reflected in our current posture and policy toward immigrants/aliens to the United States. I get that immigration should probably not be a complete free-for-all in opening our borders to anyone. There are legitimate security concerns in our world with many people who would love to do harm to Americans. That’s no joke.
On the other hand it’s hard to not see how we have been treating people seeking asylum in our country and think we have missed the mark. Too often we tend to assume the worst, treating everyone like a potential terrorist. We can do better. God expects better from us.
Heavenly Father this morning we reflect on the treatment of aliens in our land. Give us grace to be both welcoming and wise at the same time. For just about all of us living in the US were once aliens and immigrants to this country. We can do better. Let it be so. Amen.