“. . . foreigners who live among you . . .”


The Lord gave this message to Zechariah: ‘Long ago I gave these commands to my people: You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you, or anyone else in need. And do not plan ways of harming one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)

I think I must have passed by this fierce-looking (but harmless) little toad at least ten times before I noticed him nestled in the corner among the ivy by the front door.  I was careful to take his photo with a telephoto lens so I could stand at a distance and not disturb this foreigner who was living among us.  He stuck around a little longer and then disappeared, having enriched my life with our brief encounter.

At the very core of our Judeo-Christian heritage is the awareness that our lives are created to be lived in healthy relationship with God and one another.  Unfortunately, some have tried to collapse the equation by reducing life to a relationship with God and the individual, with little or no concern for others.  The folks listening to Zechariah were being reminded that God had consistently proclaimed this message of relationship with God, self, and other.  God was re-iterating the message to them, and would continue the same message in the coming of Jesus.  When Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and,  ” Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he wasn’t singing a new song.  It was another verse of the same song God had been singing forever.

The concern for the other is so great that even the foreigner is included, the most surprising one of the bunch.  I guess the first thing that comes to mind when we think of foreigner is someone who is different from us.  For some reason today I found myself thinking about the foreigner a little differently.  What happens when we’re the foreigner?  I don’t mean we’re visiting some place or community where we’re the outsider trying to fit in.  What happens when we start to feel like we’re a foreigner even when we’re in the midst of a community or congregation that has been our home? 

I’m convinced that things happen in our lives that can have the power to leave us feeling like we’re a foreigner even when we’re sitting or living among friends and family.  Whether it’s something that happens to us or something we do, I believe there are times when we start to feel things like, “No one could understand what I’m feeling.”or “No one could understand how I hurt.” or “How could anyone love me after what I’ve done.” or “_______________________”  Suddenly, we feel like the foreigner.  Suddenly we’re convinced that we are the foreigner.  It’s a critical moment.  Will we ask for help, or will our discomfort as the foreigner drive us into isolation?  Foreigners aren’t really wanted or included, are they?

In God’s world, the good news is that the foreigner is not excluded, but rather, included.  The foreigner is in need of and deserves that same compassion, understanding, love, and forgiveness as all the rest.  Remaining a foreigner in a time of crisis, that is, remaining alone in one’s heartache and hurt, is the most destructive path for the future.  Every foreigner needs to know they always have been and always will be part of God’s family and part of God’s plan for healthy relationships.  The more we appreciate this Grace available for us when we feel like a foreigner, the more we will want to offer God’s Grace to the foreigner when we meet them.  I pray that God will help me remember the foreigner, and seek God’s Grace in Christ when I am the foreigner.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

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~ by revgenelson on January 16, 2013.

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