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What To Do With Foreigners?

This question is not new. It’s receiving new attention these days. But it’s been around a long time.

In Holy Scripture, the words foreigner, alien, and stranger are used interchangeably. Today, the term of choice is migrant or immigrant.

So what does scripture say? A lot. Interestingly, the Old Testament equates foreigners, aliens. and strangers with widows, orphans, and the poor — a hint about the way foreigners should be treated.

Leviticus 19:9-10 (NIV): “When you reap the harvest…do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest…Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” (Also, Deuteronomy 10:19; Malachi 3:5)

Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself…” (Also, Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Exodus 23:9)

These statements may be provocative today as countries the world over contend that there are too many foreigners or immigrants. Before going that far, however, we should remember that in the days of Solomon, there were 150,000+ foreigners in Israel. (II Chronicles 2:17) Occasionally, there was a single foreigner of note like Ruth. (Ruth 2:10)

When Jesus separated the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25, one of the points of contrast was taking in strangers. Paul wrote that Gentiles were no longer foreigners and strangers because they were saved by the blood of Jesus. (Ephesians 2:11-20) In Hebrews 13:2, we read: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Like Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18-19)

When Jesus gave the great commission to his apostles in Matthew 28:19, he told them to make disciples of all nations. With many people worldwide, the debate over what to do with foreigners is hotly contested. With Jesus, there are no foreigners.

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