“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21 NASB)
When I think of the word "stranger", I think of the time old wisdom my mother reminded me of quite often; "don't talk to strangers, honey." From that point on, a "stranger" was defined as a dark and scary hooded figure, as someone with malicious intent- someone I should fear. So it is only natural for me, and as I have observed for others, to respond to strangers nowadays by avoiding any contact at all.
This passage from Exodus was an incredible reminder to God’s chosen people to treat others as they would want to be treated. Having lived as slaves in the foreign land of Egypt, they could truly empathize with those strangers that found themselves among the Israelites. How do we then relate ourselves to the Israelites? How do we empathize with strangers as God provided a way for them to?
Before we accepted Jesus as our Lord, we were friends of the world. We loved the things of the world. And that made us STRANGERS to God. Did God avoid us? Mistreat us? Turn His face away from us? No. He PURSUED us as strangers. He opened His arms to us and yearned for us to know Him. How crazy is that??? He is so good and so loving.
Let us treat strangers today (and every day!) as we have been treated by our Lord. May we not live in fear of those unfamiliar and different to us. May we instead extend love, grace and care to the stranger walking down the street, to the man begging on the corner, to those with a different religion, different language or different ethnicity- to the people that God so loves.