Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Irish Traveller Family, Killorglin, County Kerry, Ireland, 1954 (photo in the public domain)

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.
Leviticus 19:33-34

Anyone who has travelled outside his or her home has been a stranger in a strange land. This includes the first time we leave our parents' care to go to school and into the hands of a new authority. Most people remember their first day at school as being one with a mix of excitement and dread, a day of transition from the safety of family to the danger of the wider world. More than anything on this important day a child needs kindness. Sadly they are often met with teasing, and even bullying. Such early impressions form us, and it's likely that those met with ridicule will in turn ridicule others. We either forget our fear, covering it up with bluster, or we learn that to vex the stranger keeps us from being the one vexed. School for many of us, was our first Egypt.

As we go through life we encounter new Egypts along the way: moving to a new neighbourhood, changing schools, joining a new club, joining a new social media platform, dating, getting a job, marriage, parenthood, these are all strange lands until we have had some time to settle, to become familiar, to become accepted by those already resident. Unless we are reminded of that uncomfortable feeling of being displaced our desire is to forget it, to blot it out, and thus deny that others experience the same thing. In short, we become the oppressive one instead of the compassionate one, which is where most of the world stands today in its treatment of the stranger.

Our domestic displacements pale in comparison to the global displacements many have experienced, but remembering our experiences can help us find compassion in our hearts for the stranger, for the displaced person, the refugee, the migrant, the stateless person, the asylum seeker, those usually branded as 'illegal immigrants' and thus treated by world governments and a great majority of citizens in most un-Levitical ways.

It's important to remember that the laws laid down in Leviticus are intended as guides to bring us closer to God. It is true that many are difficult to comprehend today, and some seem to make little sense, but a law such as this one is timeless. As we treat one another so we treat God. This is a theme that echoes throughout the Bible, culminating perhaps in Jesus' words, For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.1 What we do for the least of God's people we do for God.

1 Matthew 25:35