Love you therefore the stranger: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
In both Jewish and Christian economy special kindness was to be shown to the stranger.
I. THE STRANGER'S CLAIM DOES NOT REST UPON ANY DOCTRINE OF ABSTRACT RIGHT, BUT UPON THE DISADVANTAGE OF HIS POSITION. He can hardly be said to have any right at all. He is a foreigner. He comes uninvited. He seeks only his own advantage. Why should I befriend him? He is seeking only to make his own way, and to secure a footing, probably at my cost, or that of my neighbour. Besides, it is impossible to befriend him without risk. Nothing is known of his history or his character. Why did he leave the place where he was known? If he couldn't succeed there, why should he expect to succeed here? The very fact that he had to come among strangers and start life afresh is a reason for caution and reserve. All this is true. Why should you trouble about him? Yet you must trouble. And the simple reason is, that his strangeness places him at a terrible disadvantage. In the Old Testament he is always classed with the widow and the orphan. They are the defenceless class. And because they are an easy prey of cunning and wickedness, God makes special provision for them. He comes into a community ignorant of all the well-established order of its life. The common places of their life are novelties to him. What an object for fleecing! The sailor on shore, and Young Evergreen on the turf, are striking examples of the readiness with which the simple-minded stranger falls a victim to wily and wicked men. The same thing happens in business and society. Most people regard it as quite the proper thing to make the stranger pay for his experience, and do not scruple to take advantage of his ignorance. The glory of our Jehovah is that He is the Defence and Champion of the helpless and oppressed. The world bullies the widow, exploits the poor, and considers the stranger fair game for plunder. But God says, My people shall protect the weak, provide for the poor, and show kindness to the stranger. One reason why they were to show kindness to the stranger was because he is especially sensitive to first impressions. His loneliness and comparative helplessness lay him open to the first influences that come upon him. He is ready to enter any door that opens. How much depends upon those first influences! He will form his estimate of the new community from the people who first get hold of him. The stranger's first impressions of Israel would be gathered from his first experiences among them. First impressions last. God was jealous for His name among the heathen and the stranger. The stranger is nervous, uncertain, apprehensive. He is easily offended, and apt to see slights where they do not exist. But he is just as easily pleased, and responds readily to kind and sympathetic interest. I am persuaded our churches have suffered great loss in our towns and cities through their neglect of the stranger. It would be safe to affirm that no church prospers that is not mindful of the stranger. "Forget not to show love unto the stranger." He is altogether a pathetic figure. Often behind him is a history full of tragedy; his heart is sore, sometimes even unto breaking; always he is in need of kindly and helpful sympathy.
II. OUR DUTY TO THE STRANGER. Our duty runs along the line of his need. The Old Testament law protects him against oppression, wrong, and vexation. No advantage was to be taken against him. But they were not to stand aloof, and let him severely alone. They must deal hospitably with him. He with the poor was to have the gleanings of the field, that he might secure his daily bread. In the New Testament the hospitality is extended. To care for the stranger was one of the marks of Christian character (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10). He was to be treated both in the Old and New Covenant as home-born, and admitted to the privileges of national and social life (Leviticus 19. 33, 34). The reason for such generous treatment was three fold.
1. The stranger's need. That in itself ought to be sufficient. The Good Samaritan does not stop to inquire into the merits of the man naked and bleeding on the roadside. His need is a sufficient passport to sympathy. Philanthropy in the guise of a detective is a very poor thing. The large-hearted pity of Jesus did not wait for a certificate of merit and respectability before it healed the sufferer or fed the hungry. The stranger's hunger is for brotherliness, rather than bread. Feed him, then, out of the fulness of your heart.
2. "Ye know the heart of a stranger." One would think such would need no exhortation to be considerate to strangers. The remembrance of a fellow feeling ought to make them kind. But it does not. The cruellest slave driver is the man who has been a slave. Suffering unsanctified by grace does not soften and sweeten; it hardens and sours. But the law ought to hold good. If suffering does not make us appreciate the troubles of those who may afterwards be passing through the same experience, what can we appreciate? We are comforted of God, that we in turn may comfort others in like affliction. We have all been strangers, for we began life as "the little stranger." Recall your experiences, and when you see a stranger, do unto him as you would that others should have done unto you.
3. God loves the stranger. "The Lord your God is God of gods, the Lord of lords, a great God,...and loveth the stranger. Love ye therefore the stranger" (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). The love of God over. flows the boundaries of the elect. It compasses the heathen as well as the Israelite. Be ye imitators of God. Because God loves him, you must love him for God sake. This motive is greatly strengthened in Jesus Christ. For His sake we are debtors unto all men. For His sake we must take up our cross and crucify the flesh with its narrow affections and selfish lust. In the stranger you may find an angel. Not that every stranger is an angel. Some are sharks. You are not asked to abandon the ordinary rules of prudence and common sense. There is all the difference in the world between being kind to a stranger and making him your bosom friend straight off. But in the stranger there are great possibilities. When God gave His great promise unto Israel, we are told "they were few men in number, yea, very few, and strangers in the land" (Psalm 105:11, 12). Only a few feeble strangers, but heirs of a great promise. Angels have a trick of dwelling in unsuspected places; they delight to travel in disguise, and be entertained unawares. In the stranger you may find appreciation and gratitude. St. Luke tells us that when Jesus healed ten lepers none returned to express their thanks, save only he who was a Samaritan and a stranger (Luke 17:18). In the stranger you may find more than an angel. You may find in him your Lord. At the last day you will be surprised to find you have been ministering not unto a needy brother, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. "I was a stranger, and ye took me in."
Parallel VersesKJV: Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.