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Welcoming the Alien

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. –Leviticus 19: 34

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.–Hebrews 13:2

Many of us simplify our lives partly in order to be able to support and protect our families in the harder times which may lie ahead of us. Many articles on this site have reminded us that we need to do this work along with our neighbors, sharing skills, tools, and commitment. Such mutual relationships enrich our lives in the present and provides some safety for the future. But it’s important that we remember who our neighbors are.

It’s tempting to define our neighbors as the folks we know and are comfortable with, who agree with us about a lot of things, who look like us, who share our background and tradition. It’s tempting to bond tightly with these people and shun or ignore outsiders.  The current fearful and polarized political atmosphere makes such withdrawals, such in-groups and out-groups, feel more natural and necessary than ever. But we who claim to follow Jesus need to remember how he answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us that we must be willing to act as neighbors to whatever people God brings into our lives. Including foreigners.  Including people with different faiths. Including people we’ve defined as enemies.

We need to be willing to help these people when they are in trouble. Perhaps more challenging, we need to be willing to be helped by them. We need to learn to know them and to love them as ourselves.

Sometimes this may be frightening. Often it may be stretching and exhausting. But the rewards are many. In welcoming the alien we learn something of the richness of other cultures and come to see our own with new eyes. In welcoming the alien we are reminded that we also live as aliens in a culture that is at odds with the message of the Gospel and with the possibility of a sustainable life on this earth. In welcoming the alien we welcome Christ who comes in the stranger’s guise.

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