The Heart of the Alien
Holly has been reading Number the Stars with Hudson, a story set in Denmark during WWII. They were reading a section about the Nazis rounding up the Jews. Holly paused to talk about what is happening at the border, and in cities around the country. “I think I traumatized our son,” she said the next morning, because as they finished the chapter, they were both crying.
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
The injunction to not oppress the foreigner or sojourner as well as the call to love the stranger occurs at least twice in Exodus (22:21, 23:9), as well as in Leviticus 19:33-34 and Deuteronomy 10:19. In each case, this injunction is a part of a list of instructions regarding justice or fulfilling God’s law. This injunction is rooted in compassion, not in how we perceive the choices of the sojourner.
Drawing on a collective history, we are to have compassion on the one who is separated from security and provision. We are to relate to their vulnerability, to find commonality in it. This means that instead of painting characterizations of asylum-seekers and refugees as gangs and terrorists, we should ask what it is that they are fleeing. Why? What has it been like? How far have they come?
How our faith and nationality come together has always been tricky business. We do not live in a religious State as ancient Israel did when they achieved a land and monarchy. We live in a modern pluralistic State. As individuals and as Christian communities, we must discern how to relate to the State, their policies, and exertion of power. Furthermore, we must decide for our-selves how we live out the code given to us by our faith, a code rooted in compassion and our own individual and collective experiences of being sojourners or aliens.
“for you were aliens in the land of Egypt”
While we should all be responsible citizens of the communities and the State that we find our-selves living in, we should remember that we too are sojourners. Our first citizenship lies with Christ and Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom yet to come to full shape. We should not rely on the State to do justice for us, nor to care for the widow and the orphan and the sojourner. We should find ways to do it.
John 13: 34-35 “‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Those who observe us will not know we are disciples, as it was in Jesus’ day, because we are physically following Jesus around. Jesus goes away and says that you cannot follow. So he outlines a new way that the world will know we are disciples—If you love; love one another, love one another as Christ has loved us.
“you know the heart of an alien”
Governments are problematic entities, and we ought not rely on them to do the work of Christ’s kingdom. The call to love falls to us. For this is how people in this modern pluralistic society will know we are Christ’s disciples, when we have love for one another, and when we can see ourselves in one another, and when we cultivate the common ground of compassion.
Yours in Christ,
On Sunday, August 25th, we will host a time with Rev. Anne Kleinkopf. Anne is leading an immigration task force at First Plymouth and is engaged with and coordinating with numerous other organizations and efforts in Denver. She will help bring clarity to the murky waters of the immigration and border crises, and how she and others are responding.