The Alien or Stranger
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35)
We can find in the Bible many verses about inclusion and exclusion. God has chosen his people, or so it is understood in the Bible, and the people have chosen their God. Certain families or persons are set apart to become priests, scribes, or leaders of various types. In our own lives, we also experience these various states of identity and association. There are times when we are included and times when we are isolated, and there are even the times when we choose separation. The passage from Leviticus reminds us of the time that the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt. This collective memory is kept in the law as a reminder of our need to seek out those different from us, our need to understand them, our need to listen, and our need to affirm the experience of those who do not share our context. Though we may be set apart for a special purpose, we are reminded by Peter that God does not show partiality. We might be measured or held accountable due to our talent, our circumstances, or our purpose, but none of these things are of special value to God in the sense that they guarantee any reward. Goodness, love, and truth are sufficient unto themselves. God has the ability to reward according to God’s intention and need. If we dishonor another person, we dishonor the light, the essence, of God that exists inside of them. The consciousness and awareness of that person can be turned toward God in ways we do not understand. We recognize our limitation—an important part of our spiritual maturity and growth—and have faith that all goodness and truth come from God. This goodness and truth can come from the alien, the stranger, in our midst. The stranger’s differences may be due to culture, or language, but also experience. They may be our neighbor of a different faith tradition, wear different clothes, or wear their hair in strange patterns. The passage from Leviticus emphasizes the similarity of our human experience. Underneath the appearance is the substance of the person. We are called to respond to the substance and character of each person because at its deepest, perhaps most hidden condition, there is the same connection to God that we share.
God, there are times that you come to us as the “other.” Your appearance, your language, your customs, and your faith challenge us to meet you and give respect. Help us to look underneath the surface of another’s appearance, help us to seek out the hidden treasure of the light that exists within them. When we are set apart, help us to work to fulfill the purpose of creation and help us remember that our contribution has its place, next to the contribution of every other human being. We exist no higher, no lower, as members of your body, the Body of Christ. Help us to welcome the opportunity to know you and understand you in all of your forms. Help us to seek out your presence in every human being. Amen.
From The Readings
2013-52 It is important to understand the value of a human life and what it expresses—for there is not a single life without meaning, no matter how destitute or downtrodden, or seemingly insignificant. Every evolved soul knows this and understands it.