A Different Stranger

 

Thanks to long-time reader Doug for forwarding me this little article that casts a different light on ongoing discussions about the relationship of believers to strangers and foreigners.

Sometimes the stranger is a known threat, someone who has deliberately contributed to or caused the deaths of many people.  And yet in Christ, we are called to love and pray for that person and, in some cases, minister to them personally.  That can be a real challenge.  It might be a challenge we don’t want to accept, like Rev. Gerecke, yet we strive to remain open and obedient to the will of God.

At the same time we are seeking to be obedient, other Christians might be convinced that what we are doing is contrary to the will of God – such a predicament to be in!  Vilified by brothers and sisters in the faith!  Seeking to be faithful and having that viewed as un-Christlike.  In fact, it sounds a lot like what the Apostles endured.  In fact, it sounds a lot like what Jesus endured.

The Biblical call to love of strangers is much deeper than we like to think it.  And it isn’t ultimately focused on how we treat each other.  First and foremost the Biblical story of kindness to foreigners and strangers is God’s treatment of you and I.  We are the strangers and foreigners – no, the rebels, the terrorists, those who reject God’s freedom and love and will for our own twisted sinfulness.

Yet God not only strives to welcome us, He comes to us.  He comes into enemy territory, as it were.  Not with an army but just with a single man, his Son.  He comes into enemy territory not armed to the teeth but as a baby.  He engages us not with weapons but with words, with love.  And He is willing to allow us to kill him.  To vent our wrath against God by killing his Son.  And irony of ironies, God uses the height of our sinful selfishness and makes of it his offer of amnesty, his great exchange.  His grace and forgiveness instead of our hatefulness.  His death instead of our own.  His promise of life instead of our stubborn clinging to our tombs.

The Biblical injunctions to hospitality and mercy and kindness to strangers are issued within this larger story of hospitality and mercy and kindness.  God calls us to the same thing that He himself does with us, promising not that we will necessarily be safe, but that He will be present with us as we follow his calling.

Rev. Gerecke was called to minister to deeply sinful and lost men.  While his safety might not have been an issue, their salvation was.  His willingness to engage the stranger led to them no longer being strangers, but brothers in Christ.  This is always God’s goal for us, and our goal for one another.  That the love of Christ might be evident in our own counter-intuitive love for strangers, for the other.

 

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