What Does the LORD Require? Love the Stranger!
Our verses begin: “So now, O Israel, what does the LORD require of you?” Fear the LORD
. . . walk in God’s ways . . . love God . . . serve the LORD with all your heart and soul . . . keep the commandments. And why do we do these things? To gain God’s favor? To demonstrate our superior righteousness? No, says Moses (Deut 9:4–7). Love and obey God “for your own well-being” (Deut 10:13). Do it because it’s good for you! To love and to serve God is what we humans were created for. The more that the love of God becomes a centerpiece of our lives, the more we will begin to “find our groove” and live as we were intended. In the end, our lives will be better for it.
However, our own well-being is not the only reason to love and obey God. Serving God necessarily overflows into improving the well-being of others, particularly the most vulnerable members of our commu nities. God is the model. God “executes justice for the orphan and the widow.” God “loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” Moreover, Moses reminds Israel that God’s own people had once been slaves, “strangers in the land of Egypt.” So because God has a special place in God’s heart for strangers and because God’s own people know deep in their collective memory what it is like to be a stranger in a foreign land, so “you shall also love the stranger.”
The admonition to show hospitality and love to strangers is a recurring drumbeat throughout the literature of the Bible—in its laws (Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33; Deut. 24:17–19), its stories (Gen. 18:1–15), the words of the prophets (Jer. 7:6; 22:3), the poetry of the Psalms (Ps. 94:6; 146:9), the words of Jesus (Matt. 25:35, 43), and the letters of the early church (Heb. 13:2). May that drumbeat continue to sound in and through us as well.
Prayer: O God, lover of the stranger, the immigrant, the outsider. You have transformed us from wandering strangers into beloved family. Open our eyes to see the strangers in our midst. Extend our hands to serve them. Open our mouths with words to welcome them. Open our hearts to love them. In the name of Jesus, who came among us as a stranger in order that we might find our home in you. Amen.
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