People Are Strange

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You may know the song “People Are Strange” by The Doors that sings of people being strange and looking ugly when you are a stranger and alone. How people view you and me often shapes our views of them.

Do you ever encounter people who view you as strange? If so, how do such encounters make you feel? I would assume that such experiences don’t generate pretty feelings. Encounters I have where I am viewed as strange will cause me either to become hardened and view others as strange or to become more sensitive not to treat strangers in my midst as strange.

The Bible has a lot to say about not treating a stranger in one’s midst as strange, but to care for him or her. Exodus 22:21 states, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34 says, “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 10:19 exhorts, “And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” Jesus tells the goats in Matthew 25:40-45 that they will suffer eternal torment as a result of not caring for him by failing to care for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. In that context, Jesus declares: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’” (Matthew 25:41-43)

How does this biblical material bear upon immigration reform? Whatever our political position on the subject, one of the things Christians must account for in addressing the matter is the Bible’s own claims. We must not mistreat the immigrant no matter their status. As fellow humans created in the image of God, we must show them respect. We must respect them, just as we would want to be respected.

However, we often forget what it’s like to be disrespected or mistreated or viewed as strange. The Israelites were to remember that they were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. Most if not all of our ancestors came from other lands. Our ancestors were once aliens. Perhaps we were, too. In one way or another, we have all been inside a stranger’s shoes. How would we have wanted our ancestors or ourselves as strangers to be treated, regardless of legal status? How would we wish to be treated if for some reason we had to depart for another land based on a personal or national crisis and with or without official papers?

No matter how we land in the end on the issue of immigration reform we need to make sure we personalize the issue so that we know what it is like to be people without a land and to treat others as we would want to be treated. Are you willing to step inside a stranger’s shoes—again?

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • Kevin McKee

    Thank you for a wonderful thoughtful article. I was beginning to despair that this grouping, “Evangelical” was simply another name for “Fundamentalist, conservative”. I grow in despair at the number of Christians who attack the stranger, the new arrival. Almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants from elsewhere, who came here usually because they were forced or if they stayed they would starve (my ancestors from Scotland and Sweden) who saw an opportunity. Who are we to deny this to people from other parts of the world who seek the same. Embrace them in Jesus love, as Paul instructs us.

  • rs

    The present illegal immigrant population is riddled with criminal organizations, costing us tens of billions every year in police investigations, prosecution, incarcerations. We need to get rid of them and stop shifting the expense of their upkeep onto the people of this country. Christians should support law and order, not attack it. http://www.ice.gov/news/


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