Leviticus 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and for the native-born. I am the Lord your God.
Wow, this is a challenging scripture passage.
One law is to apply to citizens and aliens alike -sounds good. Nevertheless, it is challenging because this scripture portion is about an alien who has blasphemed the Lord and the Lord tells Moses to have the assembly stone the blasphemer, be he a foreigner, stranger, alien or native born. Then it goes on with the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth and life for a life…’ passage. The sojourner is not excused by claiming ‘not my law, not my God’; but the same law is to apply to the alien and native born. This may be a comfort to those who want ‘illegal’ aliens punished - but where is the love?
The law is an expression of God’s love. The law is His love for us to put into action. The law is the very source of our freedom. It is our delight (Ps 1:2). It is the perfect law which gives liberty (James 1:25). It is the nation of laws that provides the greatest individual freedom. Extending the law to the alien, sojourner and stranger in our midst is love and justice and fairness; equal justice under the law is the ideal upon which our country was established and is based on this biblical principle. The alien – legal or illegal is to be held accountable to and protected by the nation’s laws.
But stone the alien blasphemer? Perhaps this is only Old Testament, harsh law. We have a new covenant in Jesus where mercy and love temper the law. To whom does this new covenant apply? Surely our sisters and brothers in the Lord, but does this new dispensation apply to the unsaved stranger? There may be some debate about who the stranger, alien or sojourner in our midst is, but we have no shortage of strangers in need all around us. Indeed, it is we who are strangers in a strange land. If we do not know who the stranger, alien, sojourner is, if we do not know who our neighbor is or even who our enemy is that we are directed to love – then we have the opportunity to ask our Lord to show us. The Old Testament law has been tempered by mercy and love. Indeed, we live in a new dispensation and our Lord reinforced this message – ‘when I was a stranger…’Love thy neighbor, show mercy and compassion to the alien in your midst.
But this passage is challenging for a greater reason. Why is loving the alien so hard? Is it because I fear the terrorist, the economic burden to me and my nation of caring for the refugee, alien or immigrant? Do I fear what may happen to me and those I love? Do I fear those here illegally, ‘living of the state’ consuming tax dollars for health care, education, food and housing? I may even fear disease and contagion. And it is those fears that lead to anger and anger that gives rise to hate. This fear inspires a wall, or mass deportations, or travel bans. I have these fears. How do I respond to these fears? The Lord shows us a better way of love. Fear has an antidote and that antidote is Love. He tells us that in a perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4: 18). But this is love I don’t have. The source of that love is God and He must (and will) provide. I am, as so often, left begging of the Lord for a better way. Begging God to open me to showing His love to the stranger, to fill my heart with love for the alien, for apart from Him I can do nothing.
1 John 4:16-20
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.