‘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, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” [Lev 19:33-34]
Who are the “foreigners” in your life? Are these the people with whom you don’t share the same ideas about politics, religion or football teams? Are they folks who have a different accent or social customs?
This verse is from the Old Testament. It was written to a people who had themselves been foreigners in other lands–at times as conquering invaders and at other times as slaves.
The key to understanding what is meant by “love them as yourself” is in verse 33. “Do not mistreat them” means be kind to them. It means treat them fairly. If you were the outsider–the one who is “not from around here”–would you want someone to show kindness and understanding to you? Would you want them to make you feel accepted as a contributing member of the community?
We don’t get to pick who our “foreigners” are. They come and they go–they make their own decisions about what neighborhoods they live in. The Bible says, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” (I Cor 16:13-14)
In the midst of holding firm to your beliefs, be kind. I think God really meant this because He reminds us, right after the command to love “them” as yourself: “I am the Lord your God.” It is hard to argue with that.