Once We Were Strangers
“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” —Deuteronomy 10:19
The various summaries of the law in the Bible include strangers as people to be especially cared for. Whether we call them sojourners, immigrants or aliens they need help because they are frequently socially powerless.
So God’s people are commanded to care for these special ones. Our passage today reminds the Israelites that they had once been strangers in the land of Egypt. They knew how it felt to be treated unfairly. This memory was an abiding feature of their identity as a people, and they were admonished never to forget it.
My own family is a microcosm of our nation of immigrants. My forebears fled here to escape persecution or sometimes just to seek a better life. My grandfather’s people, French Huguenots, fled religious violence in the 17th century. My wife’s Greek grandparents escaped “ethnic cleansing” in Turkey. Her Jewish grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, and his family came here after the war. Such refugees were called “displaced persons” or DP’s.
These are our stories, not merely here in America, but throughout the world. There are still many “displaced persons” among the human family. They face unique challenges every day.
God regards them with special care and so should we, for we too were once strangers, far from home.
Let us love the strangers among us as you do, O God, and never let us forget that we were once like them.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.