Saturday, April 1, 2006

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 -- On Loving the Stranger

"For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Deuteronomy 10:17-19

This is interesting stuff. The first verse reminds us that God isn't corruptible... that he is God, after all, and isn't impressed with our little earthly biases and riches.  My favorite part in these verses is the stranger part.   He loves the stranger, and tells us that we should love the stranger as well, because we have been strangers.  I think that it is interesting because we have a fear, not always irrational, of strangers.   People we don't know seem irrelevant, or even dangerous.   We teach children to avoid strangers, to not talk to them or not get into their cars (which is a rational security measure).  We, as a society, are practically teaching paranoia of strangers.  Anyone we don't know is scary... without morals.  

Some of that is valid. We do need to watch out for our children, and avoid things that can get us hurt or killed.   However, I think our paranoia hurts us as well.  When we begin our interactions with distrust, how can we build relationships?  And our distance... why do we mourn for the disaster or terrorist victims in our own country, but just shrug our shoulders at the disaster and terrorism in other countries?  Not because they are less extreme, because they aren't.

We also *become* strangers very easily.  Almost a year ago, I was laid off from a job.   They told me ahead of time, because they had to... it would have become obvious that I wasn't able to sign up to teach classes the next semester, etc.   So, I still had to work there and interact with people for more than a month after they told me.   After everyone heard, I was suddenly a stranger.  People averted their eyes when they saw me.  It was a bizarre transition, and I'm not saying it was horrible of those people... probably just a natural stress reaction.  Have to distance yourself when something like that happens, so that you cut your losses or something like that... but I think that it serves to illustrate how close we are to becoming strangers ourselves. 

At work, in our everyday relationships... we're close to being strangers all the time.   To avoid that, we have to go out of our way to maintain relationships, to love people... to rescue them from the stranger category. :)   And, we need to put forth that effort as much as we can.  Today, let's try to be like God... to "regard not persons" as far as picking and choosing who we acknowledge because of whatever categories we choose to discriminate by.   God loves them ALL.  And, if we put forth the effort, maybe we can find out why. :)

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