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How Should We Treat a "Stranger"?

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Written by: Christopher Sernaque

Dear Reader,

Christ Jesus Ministries released a video on whether the Bible endorses racism. Accompanying the video, were two other articles on slavery and racism that have already featured on Christ Jesus Ministries’ webpage. This video and the other two articles are all featured at the end of this article. This article is a response to the most common objection to both the video and the articles. The objection is essentially, “The Bible does not endorse cruelty for Israelites slaves, but the Bible is racist because the Bible teaches that slaves who are “strangers” can be treated with cruelty.” Let us let the Bible speak for itself, how should we treat a stranger? For example,

Deuteronomy 24:14: “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates.

Deuteronomy 24:18: "But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing."

An entire segment of Deuteronomy 24, verses 14-22, has to do with the just treatment of orphans, widows, and strangers, whether those strangers be civilians or servants. The stranger was not to be treated unjustly (vs 17), the Israelites were to provide food for the strangers in need, (vs 19-21), and they were to keep in mind that they could relate to their bondman strangers because they had once been bondman in Egypt. (vs 22) In verses 14, 18 and 22 we see that neither the Israelite servant nor the Stranger servant was to be oppressed or mistreated. When we come through the various passages that mention the free stranger or the servant stranger, we find that the Bible does not condone racist oppression. With that thought in mind, let us examine the various verses on the treatment of strangers, whether free or servants. These verses will not include the passages where the Israelites were at war with other nations like the Philistines, as those texts are not representative of how an Israelites would treat a stranger dwelling peacefully “within their gates.” Here are ten facts about the Bible’s guidelines for the treatment of strangers:

Fact #1: Under the Lord’s provision, the Stranger had the privilege of keeping the Sabbath, or a day of rest, and so their labor was prohibited from being exploited.

Exodus 20:10: “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”

Fact #2: God forbade the Israelites from oppressing or vexing, which means doing violence to, a Stranger.

Exodus 22:21: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Fact #3: God appealed to the empathy of the Israelites, instructing them to have compassion on the Stranger considering they could identify with their feelings based on their experiences in Egypt.

Exodus 23:9: “Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Fact #4: God commanded the Israelites to love the strangers as they would themselves or one of their own and to refrain from all violence against said strangers.

Leviticus 19:17-19, 33-34: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Fact #5: God ensured that the strangers would be treated fairly in legal disputes.

Deuteronomy 1:16-18: “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it. And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.”

Fact #6: Friendship, or romantic love, (Strong’s 157) with the stranger was to be the basis of relation between the Israelites and the stranger.

Deuteronomy 10:19: “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Fact #7: As stated in the introduction, the stranger, whether a hired servant or otherwise, was not to be oppressed by the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 24:14: “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates.”

Fact #8: God declared it a virtue for a person to treat the strangers with dignity, as you would treat an orphan or a widow.

Jeremiah 7:6-7: “If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.”

Fact #9: The Lord made sure that the stranger and their children that chose to dwell among the people of Israel were granted an inheritance.

Ezekiel 47:22-23: “And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord GOD.

Fact #10: God considered it an act of evil to take away the rights of a stranger.

Malachi 3:5: And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

From these ten facts we truly find that “there is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2:11)

This is because we are all His children as “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27) We find that God is not going to exclude anyone from Heaven based on their appearance because “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) In fact, those who will be excluded from Heaven are those who in their bigotry, judge others with prejudice for the Bible says, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” (James 2:9) From the story of Moses and his wife we find that God despises not people with darker skin tones. (Numbers 12)

Before we close, I would like to share a historical anecdote. Anthony Benezet was an American abolitionist who established one of the first anti-slavery societies, called the “Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.” Benezet found himself at a Philadelphia Yearly Meeting where a motion that would disband slavery amongst the Quakers was about to be defeated. With a broken heart and with tears pouring down his face, Benezet quoted Psalm 68:31 which says, “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” “His (Benezet’s) message was that the children of Africa were God fearing, God loving, and worthy of God’s grace. Benezet’s message, backed by his life of service, carried the day.”

In conclusion, in Heaven, there is no respect of persons for John saw, “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9) I look forward to the Sabbath when it can be said that “all flesh” shall “come to worship” the Lord. (Isaiah 66:23)

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