Love thy Alien
And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt (Devarim / Deuteronomy 10:19).
Depending on which English translation you read, the Torah tells us to love those who are aliens, strangers, or foreigners among us. The Hebrew word ger refers to a person of one nationality living among a people or country not his own. The people of Israel were commanded to treat the foreigners among them fairly, not showing partiality to their own people.
The basis of this is two fold. First in the verse immediately preceding, we are told that God himself loves the foreigner. In the culture of the day, each nation had its own god or gods. The relationship of religion to each people was very strong. It was natural to think of one's god as being partial to his people - but not the God of Israel. Even though he entered a special covenant with them, he never plays favorites. And so neither should they.
The second basis for loving the foreigner has to do with Israel's own history. They lived as foreigners in Egypt for many years and suffered greatly due to nationalistic paranoia. God therefore told them not to do as the Egyptians did, but rather, knowing how it feels to be a foreigner, they were to treat the foreigners among them in the way they would have wanted to be treated themselves.
We can see from this directive that any disdain for non-Israelites that may have been present in their hearts or developed later in their culture was not something derived from their God-given way of life. Prejudice toward people different from ourselves has been common among all peoples throughout history, but the Torah seeks to give us a different perspective.
It would have been easy to forget that God's original plan revealed to Abraham included blessing for all peoples (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-3). Did not God direct Israel to enact judgement on others? They were also told to keep themselves separate. But God's strict rules about religion and morality did not mean that they should treat others badly. Israel itself would also come under God's judgement for wrongs committed. God in no way preferred Israel over other nations.
So the eventual going out of the Messiah's disciples to the nations of the world with the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life was an extension of this very command. True to the culture of their day, it took them some time to fully comprehend this. God had prepared the nation of Israel over centuries to fulfill the promise to Abraham. God desired his blessing come to all peoples and not just Israel. What better way to love the foreigner than to share the goodness of God with them.
Maybe we too should look at the foreigners among us to see if we are loving them in the way God desires.
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