It was a simple act of kindness with a very personal impact. 25 years ago, my wife traveled with her mom and sisters to France, the country of her mother’s birth. One night, after an evening with family in Paris, she accidentally got on the wrong train... the final run of the night. A stranger, noticing her plight, called the relative with whom she was staying and drove her to her proper destination. Without the kindness of that stranger, the outcome would have been very different.
Those of us who claim the name of Jesus are meant to reflect the character of God in our dealings with others. Through faith in Jesus (not our own efforts) our lives have been transformed by him. It makes sense we would treat others with the same grace and compassion shown to us by God. In fact, the way we act toward others is a litmus test, showing whether we are remembering how God has dealt with us.
Moses, Israel’s leader, gave instructions on how the nation was to treat others before they even had a land to live in! He urged them to respond with the same undeserved kindness they had received from God:
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:16-19 NIV)
God is high above all the standard means of human persuasion and influence. He is not a political being: God shows no partiality nor accepts bribes.
Although he is almighty, God is personal. There is a special place in his heart for the marginalized and vulnerable of any society. Here, Moses refers to three examples: the widow, orphan, and “foreigner among you.” The first two were people without the protection of a family, those who might fall victim easily to exploiters. The latter were people from other countries and cultures who chose to live in Israel.
The rationale for showing kindness to foreigners among them was simple: “for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Moses was speaking to the people of the Exodus: they knew firsthand what it was like to be strangers, even slaves, in a foreign country and culture. Their compassion grew out of their experience: they were now to treat others as they had wished to be treated then.
While this passage may not resolve the current immigration debate raging in our country — gargantuan governments and convoluted policies did not exist then as they do today — it does inform our treatment of people.
We are blessed as a community to have so many faith-based organizations serving those in need in Jesus’ name: FISH, Northern Nevada Dream Center, the Salvation Army, and many others. Churches and individuals do so as well, receiving very little notice or recognition. But, like that stranger in Paris 25 years ago, their acts of kindness have a huge impact on those who are blessed by them. And they accurately communicate the love of our savior in the most practical of ways.
Don Baumann is outreach pastor at Hilltop Community Church in Carson City.