December 4, 2016
READ: Exodus 23:1-9
You must not oppress foreigners . . . for you yourselves were once foreigners (v.9).
I’ve written before about a raucous nightclub that opened across the street from my family’s home in Uganda—causing us to move out before we had a new place to live. The unexpected and challenging experience—moving from the stable house and community we had lived in for seven consecutive years—led to a state of ongoing transition. We ultimately ended up settling in a community where we knew no one, and had to start over from scratch.
As we grieved the loss of our former home and neighborhood and attempted to adjust to a new setting, I was encouraged by those who welcomed us and pained by those who didn’t.
Exodus 23:9 is deeply relevant to this situation. In this passage, the Israelites are told not to treat outsiders badly. To the contrary, they were to remember that they too had once been outsiders in Egypt. It was their divine calling and opportunity to display empathy for newcomers and welcome them into their midst.
It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be new in a community. Unless we’re intentional in considering how newcomers feel, we can miss opportunities to live out the gospel before those who need friendship and fellowship.
One commentator of Exodus 23:9, discussing the isolation a newcomer often feels, wrote, “[You] know by experience what a distressed, friendless condition that of a stranger is. The disposition, dejection, and distress of his heart, make him an object of pity, not of malice or injustice. [You] know his heart is easily depressed, and very unable to bear [rejection].”
As Romans 12:13 declares, may we “always be eager to practice hospitality,” welcoming new acquaintances and helping them in meaningful ways.
365-day plan: Philippians 3:1-21
According to 3 John 1:5-6, who are you being faithful to when you’re hospitable to “traveling teachers” passing through town?
What can prevent you from reaching out to newcomers? How does warm hospitality reflect God’s loving heart?