your neighbour'

Monday Reflection

5th October 2020

'would apply to any person ...'

19 And you are to love those who are foreigners,
   for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19. NIV

To the Hebrews the term 'foreigner'
would apply to any person
of another race or culture
who lived, or wanted to live,
among them;
what we would call a 'Gentile'.

This reproach caused the Jews
of the Old Testament
a great deal of bewilderment,
for there were also rules,
given under the Law of Moses
which forbade the Hebrews
from having any interaction
with the Gentiles,
it was confusing!

They had been told to 'destroy'
the tribes living in Canaan.
They were instructed to tear down
all the altars and heathen statues
of those tribes,
they could make no agreements
with them or intermarry with them
(Deut. 7).

In some specific cases
they were to crush them completely,
e.g. In Jericho the Hebrews utterly
destroyed everything in the city,
both man and woman,
young and old,
and ox and sheep and donkey,
with the edge of the sword.
(Joshua 6:21)

But Deuteronomy gives a reason
for these extreme measures.
intimate dealings with these tribes,
especially intermarriage,
could cause the Hebrews
to adopt their religious practices,
such as the worship of idols.
(Deut. 7:4)

The relationship between the Hebrews
and the Gentiles was complicated.

The rules changed over the years,
applied with different force
to different tribes,
generally concerning marriage,
(eventually the grandchildren
of marriage to Egyptians
and Maobites
would be accepted as Jews).
What is clear is that
by the time of Jesus,
the extreme and hypercritical
discrimination against the Gentiles
living in Canaan,
created and enforced by the Pharisees,
came from their own minds
and not from the commandments of God.

We see the error of the Pharisees
time and time again in the Gospels.
They stretched the rules
to the extreme of forbidding
the Jews from eating with the Gentiles;
yet Jesus freely and frequently
ate with them.

But Jesus' greatest declaration
came in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The parable was a stunning
explanation of the decree,
'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

When he was asked,
'Who then is my neighbour?'
His answer was short and to the point,
'Your neighbour may be a Samaritan!'

(The inhabitants of Samaria
were great enemies of Judea.)
In addition, Jesus travelled
to Samaria and spoke
with a Samaritan 'woman at the well'
(John 4:4-42)
and treated them as he would a fellow Jew.

Christians have a similar problem,
for the Bible tells us

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.

(2 Cor. 6:14a).

We should not marry a non-Christian,
yet if we find ourselves married to one,
we should not divorce him or her
(1 Cor. 7:12-13)

Most commentators believe this means
that we should not become
so closely bound to non-believers
that we find our own faith compromised.

Yet, like the Hebrews of old,
we must love the foreigners
who live among us.

No matter what country we live in
we will find immigrants living among us,
both Christian and non-Christian,
whom it would be very easy to dislike.
Some will look off putting to us,
perhaps smell odd,
speak our language with difficulty
(if at all),
dress oddly,
have peculiar ideas
about some things, etc.

How does the Bible tell us
to treat such people?
Emphatically it commands us
to love them, include them,
care for them.
For we are all created by God
and are his children.