August 14, 2018

Practicing Empathy

Exodus 23:1-9

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.

—  Exodus 23:9

When we first moved overseas, everything was different for us—language, food, roads, social rules. It was humbling to need help from others to do something as simple as paying for public parking. I won’t forget the kind woman who helped us and kept smiling and talking in Italian—though we couldn’t understand a word. Her smile and dedication to help were a great gift.

Though our situation is much different from that of Israel in Egypt, I know the feeling of being a foreigner in need of help. God reminded Israel to remember their history of being vulnerable so that they could understand how strangers might feel in their midst.

Consider how refugees driven from their homeland or immigrants who have left their home might feel in a strange place.

God commanded his people not to oppress a foreigner or visitor or stranger for the simple reason that oppression hurts deeply. God’s people were to have empathy for others who came from a foreign land and needed help and hospitality, not opposition or oppression.

People who do not have the power of wealth and social status are to be protected by the law and supported by those who are in positions of power and influence. Tempting as it may be to follow the crowd, our identity as God’s people demands that grace be our guide.

Lord God, we quickly forget what it’s like to be dependent. As we remember the grace we have received in Christ, make us generous to care for others, knowing you have been generous to us. Amen.

About the author — Lloyd Wicker

Lloyd Wicker has been a pastor for more than eighteen years and has served churches in Illinois, Washington, and California. He currently serves as a chaplain with the United States Navy in Sicily. Lloyd and his wife, Heidi, have three children.

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