From time to time, we hear calls for Christians and even for our nation to “return to biblical values.” Certainly, for us as “people of the Book,” we do well to look to the Bible for moral as well as spiritual and theological guidance. Here are some provisions that would seem to be pertinent to issues we are facing today:
Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “The Lord your God is the God of all gods … [an] awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. [God] enacts justice for orphans and widows, and loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 14:28-39: “Every third year you must bring the tenth-part of your produce from that year and leave it at your city gates. Then the Levites, who have no designated inheritance like you do, along with the immigrants, orphans, and widows who live in your cities, will come and feast until they are full.”
Deuteronomy 24:19-23: “Whenever you are reaping the harvest of your field and you leave some grain in the field, don’t go back and get it. Let it go to the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows…. Similarly, when you beat the olives off your trees, don’t go back over them twice. Let the leftovers go to the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows. Again, when you pick the grapes of your vineyard, don’t pick them over twice. Let the leftovers go to the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows. Remember how you were a slave in Egypt. That’s why I am commanding you to do this thing.”
These provisions in the Law of Moses are replicated dozens of times. I am using the Common English Bible translation which uses the word “immigrant.” The NRSV uses both “alien” and “stranger.” Many argue that “resident alien” is a better translation. Whichever you use, the law is describing foreigners who live in the land of Israel. Like the Levites (priests), widows, and orphans (who are not part of an extended family), aliens do not own land and the means to produce food. All of these are understood to be marginal and vulnerable people. They are to be protected in court and cared for by the society. Why? Because God took care of Israel when Israel was a stranger or alien in Egypt. Israel’s responsibility for these vulnerable people is embedded in God’s character and in what they have received from God.
This fall, the Adult Education Committee has planned a very important series of events around the theme of immigration and refugees. It begins with a simulation experience on September 11 from 3-6pm. Everyone – children, youth and adults – are invited to participate in a learning activity about what it means to be a refugee and how challenging it is to find refuge. The series concludes with several presentations designed to help us better understand refugees and immigrants who happen to be Muslim. A full outline of this series can be found on page 2 of the Highland Presbyterian newsletter.
I hope we will all make special efforts to be at these events and to use this opportunity to reflect on how we are called as Christians to respond to those who have come to this country seeking shelter, opportunity and hope.
Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor