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Biblical injunctions regarding aliens in our midst

Biblical injunctions regarding aliens in our midst June 23, 2011

Thanks to my colleague and dean David Garland for compiling the following list of biblical injunctions regarding how God’s people are to treat aliens and strangers among them:

Exodus 22:21 (NRSV)

21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9 (NRSV)

9 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:33 (NRSV)

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.

Leviticus 23:22 (NRSV)

22 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 24:22 (NRSV)

22 You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God.

Numbers 15:16 (NRSV)

16 You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.

Deuteronomy 1:16 (NRSV)

16 I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.

Deuteronomy 24:20-21 (NRSV)

20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

Deuteronomy 27:19 (NRSV)

19 “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

Jeremiah 7:4-12 (NRSV)

4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another,

6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt,

7 then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

Zechariah 7:10 (NRSV)

10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Malachi 3:5 (NRSV)

5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

2. We are all aliens.

Psalm 39:12 (NRSV)

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears.

Ephesians 2:12 (NRSV)

12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 2:19 (NRSV)

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,

1 Peter 1:1-2 (NRSV)

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,   2 who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.   12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

3. Show hospitality to strangers  (a command, not advice)

Romans 12:13 (NRSV)

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV)

2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

1 Peter 3:9 (NRSV)

Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

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