Aliens; June 26, 2019

Leviticus 19:34 “‘The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'”

When you think about it, this is quite remarkable. For all the many statements about how God had chosen the physical descendants of Abraham as His special people, referred to today as Jews, here we have explicit instructions to love the Gentiles who were among them. This is a detail many of them missed, and some continue to do so today. The lesson certainly applies to the Church as well. It is only when we realize that it is only by God’s grace that we have been saved that we will start treating those who have not yet been saved correctly. That’s one of the big problems with cultural Christianity: we almost feel it’s genetic, that you have to be born into it. Christian homes are a beautiful blessing, but every human being is born with the tendency to sin. I once had a pastor who ran a kindergarten say to me, “If you don’t believe in original sin, just watch the children for about five minutes.” We demonstrate our fallen natures very early! The command in this verse levels the playing field, reminding the Jews that at one time they too were pathetic and powerless. Then, in common with virtually all the commands in this section, it ends with, “I am YHWH your God.” Scholars today are well agreed that the Tetragramaton, as those four letter are called, would rightly be pronounced Yahweh, but devout Jews would never say the personal name of God, which it is, (Exodus 3:14) and so would read it as Adonai, Lord. That’s why the NIV and some other translations render it as LORD. I think the point of that being repeated so many times is that these instructions were in stark contrast to the religious practices of virtually all the cultures around them. The Jews were not to follow the practices of Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, or any other of the “gods of the nations.” Israel slipped up in that countless times, and Christians today do too. Our lives are all too often indistinguishable from those of the non-believers around us. We forget just Who it is we worship, and so fail to fear the Lord, and become foolish. “Everybody’s doing it” is never a valid excuse.

Having lived most of my life as a Caucasian in Japan, I am painfully aware of what it is to be an alien. Until a few years ago when they changed the terminology to “Residence Card,” I carried an “Alien Registration Card” with me at all times. When I applied for permanent resident status I was told that because of my special circumstances (being born in Japan and my parents being buried in Japan) it would be easier for me to get citizenship than permanent residency, but I declined the offer specifically because of the issue brought up in this verse. I knew that because of my different racial background, the vast majority of the people I would meet would not accept me as Japanese; I would forever be an alien to them. America is unique among the nations in accepting people of any background as Americans, but sadly, recent “identity politics” have fought against that historical trend. In any case, the point for me is to recognize that everyone, however similar or different they might be to me, is equally in need of the grace of God, and equally worthy of His love.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed live as a citizen of heaven, (Philippians 3:20) extending the Good News of Your kingdom to all, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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