April 19, 2006

Who Are Jesus' Brothers and Sisters? (3)

Leviticus 19:30-37

"The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself." Leviticus 19:34


In the past few days, we've seen that suffering Jewish people and believers are among the brothers and sisters Jesus refers to in his story about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. But, of course, we can also make a case for showing concern for all needy people.

When we think about Jesus' teaching ministry, we need to remember that most of his audience was made up of Jewish people who knew the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. So the first people who heard Jesus' story listened against the backdrop of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament often referred to strangers or aliens living in the land. These were non-Israelites, those who were not a part of God's people. But despite their alien status, these people were not to be oppressed but were to receive the same respect and care as any Israelite. As a result, when Jesus' first listeners heard about helping the hurting, they knew they were not to exclude outsiders.

From a biblical social-justice perspective, passages such as Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; 24:22; and Deuteronomy 24:17 showed that an alien was entitled to the same care and protection as an Israelite. This was in stark contrast to the customs of surrounding nations, in which aliens had no rights whatsoever and were oppressed and neglected at will.

Forgive us, Lord, when we think we only have to care for "our own." May we be loving to all and embrace all who are different, for we know you love them too. Amen.

About the author — H. David Schuringa

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