The Stranger in the Gate

8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.” 10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.” Esther 3:8-11 (NIV)

Doesn’t this sound strangely familiar?

Our first thoughts, of course, will be of the Holocaust during the Second World War. The history of the Jewish people is one of persistent persecution, but there have been two systematic, government-backed attempts to completely eradicate or “destroy” them. One by Haman and Xerxes, the other by Hitler and the Nazis.

It’s easy to dismiss these as extraordinary, once-in-several-millennia occurrences, until we look more closely at the reason given for the decree:

“There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.”

This all sounds so very familiar, and far closer to home than the increasingly distant WWII. Stories about immigration have filled the news for months, particularly the Christian refugees fleeing Syria, and just this week Denmark voted to confiscate refugees cash and belongings. Australia has set up a detention camp on an isolated South Sea Island, to which they will allow no reporters or human-rights inspections.

Of course the politicians are scoring political points from all the fear and misinformation. This is part of a press release, taken verbatim from Donald Trump’s website:

(New York, NY) December 7th, 2015, -- Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing "25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad" and 51% of those polled, "agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah." Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won't convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women.

The message of this, and other political statements, is that “others” are different, and therefore a threat.

The Bible has a great deal to say about immigrants; the Hebrew word for stranger or foreigner appears more than 90 times in the Old Testament alone.

Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NIV)

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 24:19-21 (NIV)

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.

Matthew 25:35-45 (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

God’s command is not to hold the “stranger” at the border until we can figure out how to treat them; not to balance the best interest of the king (or our particular nation); it is to invite them in, feed them, clothe them, treat them as Jesus would. Period.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7299

Another great verse to remember is the one that says “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Does the Statue of Liberty still stand, lamp in hand? Has America forgotten its roots?

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It’s great to see Evelyn writing again after a while! Thank you for showing that bigotry ain’t Biblical! Also for not restricting this to Trump, obnoxious as he is, but reminding us that in Europe and Australia, too, bigotry is rearing it’s ugly head. Still, what’s unique about the US of course is the fact that it’s the self-styled Christian zealots who are promoting this absolutely unchristian farrago of fear and hate. Thank you, Evelyn, for reminding us of what the Bible says about welcoming strangers.

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Kudos to Evelyn for giving us such an eloquent gift. Our treatment of refugees is a moral and not just a political issue and we need to follow the Biblical counsel. This is where our faith and practice is tested. Either we do it the right way, God’s way, or what we profess is not of God.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25:35

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages,
the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:5

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27

"To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-48

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i don’t think trump has a problem with muslims…after-all he has done a lot of business in the middle east:

his main concern, shared by many, is the possibility of ISIS radicals taking advantage of refugee assistance programs and immigration policies, and gaining easy entry into countries they wouldn’t otherwise have access to…this dec 7 statement comes less than a week after the dec 2 san bernardino mass shooting, which demonstrated that even relatively thorough immigration laws aren’t thorough enough…if it wasn’t for this ISIS infiltration possibility, i don’t think trump would have made this statement…

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Are there many Adventists who have served in the military during war time, associated with a police department or worked in a prison?

I have done all three.

The bible verses posted above are valid,yet so are verses that were not posted.
1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
2 John 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

Back then the cities had gates. Did Jesus say…“Remove them”?

Back then the bandits had a knife, maybe drove a chariot that could run down a few people.

How about now where one person can have plastic explosive bombs and automatic weapons…like

How one deals with a stranger is case by case, but to promote some blanket, foolish, Pollyanna, pacifist approach at interpersonal relationships…is not very wise.

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The Syrian and Jewish situations are not exactly the same. Mostly due to the fact that the Nazi’s never promised to send suicide bombers masquerading as Jews, as what we see with ISIS. The Jews were rejected purely on bigotry, whereas the reason to not accept Syrians is one driven by fear, mostly (not all) due to demagoguery.

I am reminded of a really good debate I watched some weeks back dealing with this topic. Those on the side opposing the refugees, I believe, were inconsistent, and quite possibly ignorant on some issues. Those for, however, had better researched arguments, and this was also due to their personal experience and involvement in the situation. While some concerns are genuine, they are not sufficient in rejecting Syrian refugees. If you dont mind I would like to share it here. First, a little something about the organization who runs these debates:

IntelligenceSquared Debates

Our mission is to provide a new forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis; to transcend the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological; and to encourage recognition that the opposing side has intellectually respectable views.

Based on the highly successful Oxford debate program in London, Intelligence Squared, Intelligence Squared U.S. brings together the world’s leading authorities on the day’s most important issues. The Rosenkranz Foundation initiated the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Series and continues to provide major support.

If I only lived in NY, I would love to go to one of these debates.

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1- What gate - we have a gate?
2- Why is the globe being overrun with refugees from Syria? There appears to be more Syrian refugees than there ar Syrians.
3- Anybody hear about the Trojan horse? It pays to read broadly.
4- Should we emulate our church’s attitude toward “the stranger within our substantial gate”?

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Many are fleeing FROM Syria, because they have no access to food and total lack of security. But many come THROUGH Syria from other parts of the east who are fleeing persecution, lack of employment which means no food and housing.

The U.S. could easily assimilate 100K as Germany, a much small country in both population and size has accepted the bulk of refugees which has overwhelmed them. With the estimate two-year interrogation process overseas BEFORE they are admitted to the U.S. it would give us the maximum assurance. Note how the federal government has captured a number of ISIS fighters BEFORE they were able to accomplish their destruction. Life has never given us total assurance but for those who believe Christ’s statements, we should accept the stranger outside our gates but with acknowledging the intentions. Most seek employment and from Syria there is much higher level of potential skilled and professional workers, something this nation needs.

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Elaine, I think it needs to be pointed out that Sirje is looking at the refugee crisis through the eyes of someone living in Europe. The situation there is nothing like what it is in our two countries. People are genuinely afraid. My comment mostly dealt with countries like America and Australia who actually have a vetting process. And therefore should allow Syrian refugees in.

Now places like Norway (others are following suit) have classes for refugees on appropriate sexual norms:

Refugees to be given lessons in ‘Western sexual norms’ in Norway
The classes aim to use role-playing scenarios to address cultural differences regarding women (Saturday 9 January 2016)

Norway, who first introduced the controversial classes, has now seen its model followed in countries across Europe.

The courses take place at reception centres as part of a wider introductory programme to Norway – aiming to address the problem of sexual assault through discussion of concrete examples.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/norway-refugees-given-classes-on-sexual-norms-a6803666.html

I do sympathize with Sirje.

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Unfortunately, since FBI Director Comey has admitted that the US can’t vet all Syrian refugees for terror ties . . . http://dailycaller.com/2015/10/21/fbi-director-admits-us-cant-vet-all-syrian-refugees-for-terror-ties-video/ . . . should we be allowing refugees in?

Since Norway is sending refugees away . . . perhaps we should learn from them.

While this is a genuine concern, I do not believe it is good enough reason to reject people.

Watch the debate I provided in my first comment. Comment #7.

If you go over my comment to Elaine you will notice that I made a distinction between Norway/Europe, and places like America and Aust. They have no vetting process.

With fake passports and no government in Syria that can be trusted, what does “vetting” look like?

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I know the both OT and NT command caring for the “stranger” in our midst. Yet the examples given in the OT often present a different image. To Joshua the one issue that would result in death or enslavement was that one was a stranger.

“When the men of Judah attacked, the LORD gave them victory over the Canaanites and Perizzites, and they killed 10,000 enemy warriors at the town of Bezek… The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem and captured it, killing all its people [women, seniors and children] and setting the city on fire…when the descendants of Joseph became stronger, they forced the Amorites to work as slaves.”

King David continued the example set by Joshua followed by the Judges. While on the run from King Saul, he completely annihilated neighboring villages, leaving not one witness, not even a child or widow. This ethnic cleansing was a source of spiritual satisfaction. Religious diversity, toleration or compassion for non-combatants was not part of David’s jurisprudence.

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Sirje, I have never said that everyone who claims to be a refugee should be given safe passage. Obviously not all are. But at the same time, you cannot refuse all of them. Is that what you’re advocating? Also, in those cases were they end up on your shores you cannot refuse them, it is against International law:

The principle of “non-refoulement”

The obligation exists under Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention not to return a refugee to a country of territory where he/she would be at risk of persecution:

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

This is known as the principle of non-refoulement, which is considered part of customary international law and therefore binding on all states. The principle is also incorporated in several international human rights treaties, for example the 1984 Convention against Torture, which prohibits the forcible removal of persons to a country where there is a real risk of torture.
http://www.geneva-academy.ch/RULAC/international_refugee_law.php

I dont know if you watched the debate I posted. If not, I highly recommend watching it.

I watched half way through the “pink lady” and I got it. First, this is New York. I can tell you without watching to the end who will win the debate - first, because it is NY; and second, the pink lady is not a debtor, fumbling all over herself.

There is no doubt refugees need help. What refugees want is peace and a place to bring up their kids according to their own personal standards. Introducing Mid Easterners into Western culture is a disaster waiting to happen - not, necessarily, because they’re going to blow up something; but because assimilation will only cause generational conflict that will blow up in somebody’s face.

The bigger problem is with the governments that are accepting the refugees. They have no clue what to do with them except to just let them loose in a huge country with endless possibilities and no way to organize their lives to fit into this vast “candy store”. In the past, immigrants had to have sponsors, guaranteeing a place to live and a job. As for vetting - should have asked the “bride” that blew up San Bernadino. It was done on the phone with inane questions. Then there are the brothers with their pressure cookers in Boston. The US government was warned about therm, and they still remained here to accomplish their carnage.

There are two major elements that are causing debate - the emotional response vs. logistic (and maybe also the logical). The fear is real, of course, and is growing because of the ineptitude of the governments involved. What did the European countries expect when they opened the floodgates without first having a plan to deal with all these people…

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Syria was a stable country albeit under the rule of a despot (like most Middle East countries) until the USA et al cooked up the idea of getting rid of Hassad.

Having let that genie out of the bottle it became impossible to contain. The USA did not move quickly enough or forcibly enough to eliminate Hassad.(Sort of like the Bay of Pigs in Cuba) and it brought untold misery to the people of Syria and now Europe.

The only beneficiares of the turmoil in Syria is the world military/industrial complex and possibly Israel.

ISIS is that evil that lurks in all of us if the rule of law is removed.

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No one said Syria does the vetting. Passports are needed or approval by the U.S. government to enter the U.S. Refugees cannot simply come over in a rubber raft as they do for the short spaces from Turkey to Greece.

Who are “they” in your statement “They have no vetting process”?

“They” are the government who vetted the San Bernadino “bride” by asking her if she has ever blown anything up and if she’s planning to in the future (among other equally pertinent questions). There are fake Syrian passports circulating the camps, one landing on the street in the Paris attacks. Who, in Syria, is going to verify if a name on a passport belongs to its holder?

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Yes, but that fades into insignificance when the FBI and all the government security overlooked the WTC bombers who had been reported before, but ignored by officials. Remember, it was a female who informed them of men from outside this nation who were seeking flight training that did not include take-off and landing.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. Almost daily the news reports that a terrorist, whether native or foreign here, has been caught with intent to kill. Most of the murders here are committed by U.S. citizens which we also want prevented by the police, often underfunded. The chances of being killed by an ISIS terrorists is so remote that it is not worthy of calculating.