“When an alien [foreigner] resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien [foreigner]. The alien [immigrant] who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien [refugee] as yourself, for you were aliens [foreigners, immigrants, and refugees] in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God..” – Leviticus 19:33-34

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for memory. When I try, when I concentrate on going back to some of my earliest memories, I can grasp some from when I was around four years old. As I got older, of course, my memory got better, clearer, to the end that I remember high school and college and a lot better than I do being four.

The trouble we face is that our memories tend to idealize the past. For instance, when I think about being 8 or 9 like Michaela is now, I don’t think of all the trouble that I caused my parents. I don’t remember the temper tantrums or the tears. I remember being a pretty good kid. Which is why when Michaela seems to be irrationally fearful about something, I get upset. I don’t remember that I also, once, had irrational fears. 

The passage above from the Old Testament book of Leviticus has a very specific message about the treatment of immigrants. That meaning is plain for us to read. The part I love about this passage, and the part I want us to think about today, is the “why?” Sometimes with commands and laws in Leviticus, the “why” is not always clear. But here, here it is crystal clear. We are to treat foreigners, immigrants, refugees, aliens, as citizens, and to love them as we love ourselves BECAUSE WE WERE ONCE FOREIGNERS, IMMIGRANTS, REFUGEES, ALIENS. 

The people of Israel were immigrants to the land of Egypt, and they were not treated well at all. They were perceived as threats and turned into slaves. God’s command to them in the aftermath of that slavery was to make sure and treat foreigners in their own land far, far better than the treatment they had received. God wanted to make sure that Israel remembered that they were once vulnerable, powerless, relying on the hospitality of others – and taken advantage of along the way, until God had mercy on them and delivered them – so they should have mercy on and be gracious towards strangers who end up in their land. 

I don’t think I need to say anything about the status of immigration in this country. You all know the count there. But what about those among us, in our very churches, who seem foreign to us? Those whose personalities you don’t understand or like? Remember that you were once a stranger somewhere. Remember when you have been shown grace and mercy… and extend the same to others. 

Remembering where I came from, 

Pastor Mike

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