A passage from Leviticus has been circulating the internet this week on social media by many Christians in response to the current ban issued by Donald Trump against refugees and Muslims. The passage states that ancient Israel was to love the foreigner as themselves and treat them as one of their own:
And if there should come to you a stranger in your land, ye shall not afflict him. The stranger that comes to you shall be among you as the native, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Seems like this would be a good lesson for Christians on how to treat others, however, so-called “Christians” who support Trump’s ban don’t seem to agree. Some point to the fact that this passage is from the Law of Moses, thus it does not apply to the current refugee crisis or Christians today. Such reasoning, however, only proves that many Americans who claim they are Christians are not well versed in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. These “Christians” need to separate morality from carnality, because while it is true that Leviticus is part of the Law of Moses, the carnal Law, it was part of the moral Law as well which we will see below. Nor does these verses being from the Old Testament not annul the fact that there are lessons we, as the Church, could and should learn from the ancient Israelites.
Israel Warned They would be Cursed for not Keeping God’s Moral Law
Verses on how to treat refugees are found through out the Bible. In Deuteronomy, before the Law of Moses or the carnal Law. was given to the Israelites, God gave them the Ten Commandments (his moral Law) telling Israel to obey His commands and walk in His ways:
And thou shalt write upon the stones all this law very plainly. And Moses and the priests the Levites spoke to all Israel, saying, Be silent and hear, O Israel; this day thou art become a people to the Lord thy God. And thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and shalt do all his commands, and his ordinances, as many as I command thee this day. (Deuteronomy 27: 8-10)
Immediately following this proclamation curses were pronounced on those who did not do various things according to the Moral Law, including cursed are those who mistreated those in need which included refugees, immigrants and foreigners:
Cursed is he that makes the blind to wander in the way: and all the people shall say, So be it. Cursed is every one that shall pervert the judgment of the stranger, and orphan, and widow: and all the people shall say, So be it. (Deuteronomy 27: 18, 19)
For Christians who may be thinking that this is not relevant for us today, because we are under the New Covenant, keep in mind that Jesus reiterated almost all of the Moral Law (which we will see in a moment). So, yes we are under the Law of Christ or the New Covenant, however, part of the Law of Christ is the Moral Law.
Going back to the Bible we read that Israel eventually is sent off into captivity, because they did not do what God had asked of them. In Jeremiah, God reminds the Israelites of what He had asked of their forefathers when He brought them out of Egypt pointing out that one of those things was not to oppress the stranger:
Hear ye the word of the Lord, all Judea. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Correct your ways and your devices, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust not in yourselves with lying words, for they shall not profit you at all, saying, It is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. For if ye thoroughly correct your ways and your practices, and do indeed execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; and oppress not the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, and go not after strange gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land which I gave to your fathers of old and for ever. (Jeremiah 7: 2-7)
They were to keep His Moral Law as God did not place them under the Law of Moses until later when they backslid:
For I spoke not to your fathers, and commanded them not in the day wherein I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, concerning whole-burnt-offerings and sacrifice: but I commanded them this thing, saying, Hear ye my voice, and I will be to you a God, and ye shall be to me a people: and walk ye in all my ways which I shall command you, that it may be well with you. But they hearkened not to me, and their ear gave no heed, but they walked in the imaginations of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward; from the day that their fathers went forth out of the land of Egypt, even until this day. And I sent to you all my servants, the prophets, by day and early in the morning: yea, I sent [them], but they hearkened not to me, and their ear gave no heed; and they made their neck harder than their fathers. (Jeremiah 7: 22-26)
Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and justice, and rescue the spoiled out of the hand of him that wrongs him: and oppress not the stranger, and orphan, and widow, and sin not, and shed no innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22: 3)
Remember God tells them in Jeremiah 7 that He sent them the prophets to warn them, but they did not listen. Going to the other prophet books, we find many verses continuing the same theme that was originally given in with the Ten Commandment concerning strangers, refugees or foreigners:
Behold, the princes of the house of Israel have conspired in thee each one with his kindred, that they might shed blood. In thee they have reviled father and mother; and in thee they have behaved unjustly toward the stranger: they have oppressed the orphan and widow. (Ezekiel 22:7)
And I will come forward to you in judgment; and I will be [2 witness 1 a quick] against the administers of potions, and against the adulterers, and against the ones swearing by an oath in my name for a lie, and against the ones depriving a wage of a hireling, and tyrannizing over [the] widow, and the ones smiting orphans, and the ones turning aside a [right] judgment of a foreigner, even [they are] the ones not fearing me, says [the] LORD almighty. (Malachi 3:5; Apostolic Bible Polyglot)
Thus saith the Lord Almighty; Judge righteous judgment, and deal mercifully and compassionately every one with his brother: and oppress not the widow, or the fatherless, or the stranger, or the poor; and let not one of you remember in his heart the injury of his brother. (Zechariah 7: 9-10)
Apparently, God wanted the Israelites to love everyone. It seems to have been very important to Him that they treated aliens with love and kindness, welcoming them as their own. Thus, it makes no difference if one passage concerning strangers or refugees is found in the Law of Moses as the Old Testament is full of many more verses in Moral Law, and the prophets. But just in case those who do not want to help others claim that all this still does not apply to us today because these are Old Testament verses, we find teachings of Jesus in the New Testament that God still expects the same love and action from the Church, the New Israel, as He expected of ancient Israel. And if we do not treat others the way Jesus commands us there will be a “curse” waiting for us as well.
Old Testament Teachings Carry over into the New Testament
Just by simply going to the Sermon on the Mount, we can quickly learn that the same idea of loving others, including foreigners and refugees carries over into Christian practice. Not to mention the fact that much of the Sermon on the mount is simply a reiteration of what was taught about morality in the Old Testament. So for those of you who believe the Old Testament doesn’t apply because it’s “the Old Testament,” Jesus seems to think differently.
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, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48; New American Bible, Rev. Ed.)
Now, I don’t see Muslims and refugees as enemies, but many “Christians” today do. That is why I used this passage. Most Christians today, sadly, view these foreigners as a major threat to their security. The thing is, even if they were enemies, what does Jesus tell us to do? Love them. If you don’t, and are showing partiality towards them, then you are no better than a tax collector or pagan. We are to be perfect and the way to be perfect is to love all people, regardless of their nationality, their religion, their race, their gender, etc.
Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7: 12; New American Bible, Rev. Ed.)
“The Golden Rule” as it is known by most. Treating others how we want to be treated is crucial to living a Christian lifestyle. No one wants to be treated harshly, hated, persecuted, abused, threatened, forced out of countries, and so on. Many of you Christians are afraid of these Muslims because you think they are terrorists. Yet many are not. Let’s flip the issue then. If they were terrorists, and if they were coming to America waving guns around threatening us, telling us they were going to kill us, causing destruction to our churches and other terroristic acts, then, of course, we wouldn’t like it. The point I’m trying to make here, however, is that most Christians in America are doing just that to these Muslims. They are threatening them with weapons, burning down their places of worship and homes, threatening their lives, and now forcing them to leave. This is completely the opposite of what is being taught here. You don’t like the way you think the Muslims will treat you, yet you treat them the same way in return. Not only is it unjustified, but you are repaying evil for evil. Another point Jesus teaches against.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’ (Matthew 21:34-40; New American Bible, Rev. Ed.)
There are a few things I want to point out here in this passage. First, note how Jesus is reiterating the law and the prophets. So for those of you who disregard the Old Testament, Jesus didn’t feel the same way. He is pointing to the Moral Law here which carries over from the Old Testament, which covers loving all people. If you ignore this simple fact, then you ignore the teachings of Jesus.
Second, these are the greatest two commandments in the Christian lifestyle. If you love God and you love your neighbor then you aren’t going to commit any sin towards either one. By loving each fully, then you are willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy. Obedience to God and proper treatment of your neighbor.
Lastly, I want to point out the meaning of the word “neighbor.” Neighbor doesn’t mean “fellow Christian” or “fellow American.” Most Christians today seem to believe this, but it simply isn’t true. The Greek word for neighbor is πλησίον (transliterated plēsion). A quick check in Strong’s gives us the proper definition of neighbor: “according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.”
Looking around today at most Christians, I definitely don’t see them loving their neighbor as themselves. By that simple definition, Muslims, refugees, Africans, Indians, pagans, and whoever else in your life you may come across falls under “neighbor.” Their place of birth or nationalism does not matter. So by this hatred and terrible mistreatment of Muslims and refugees, as well as anyone else, you “Christians” are breaking one of the two most important commandments of God. Not only that, but think about how God feels when you mistreat His creation. He created all people. So in a sense, you are loving Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind because you aren’t loving His Creation as He does. How well do you think judgement will be when you stand before Him and have completely broken His most important commandments? I’m sure it won’t be good.
Just as God pronounced curses against the Israelites for not keeping the Moral Law, including if they mistreated the immigrants and strangers, so, too, Jesus said that how we treat others will count against us and guess what? Strangers are listed among those who we are expected to love as if they were Jesus himself:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, he will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you , or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Based on this simple passage, Christians today who are wanting to force refugees and Muslims out, or stood proud when Trump issued his ban, will suffer eternal punishment. We will be judged, not only by our faith, but also by our works. Part of those works are taking care of strangers. Many of you today aren’t doing this, but actually doing the opposite. You are helping ship them off to where they will be further persecuted or stranded without homes, food, and the necessary supplies to survive. How can you call yourself a Christian if you are doing this to others? I’ll put it bluntly: you’re not.
God does not change. He wanted the Israelites to love others and He wants Christians to do the same today. If you still choose to turn a blind eye and place yourself and those you see as your “own” (i.e. Americans) above others, then in the end you will have Jesus to answer to.
Sadly, many American Christians have created their own golden calf with this nation and how they believe that they are chosen and this nation is blessed. They view their nationalism as part of their faith and discriminate against others who are not part of the same community. Like the Israelites, many Americans claim they are Christian but are clearly not the people of God. While the Law of Moses has been replaced by the Law of Christ, the Moral Law, or the Ten Commandments, still stands. And for anyone claiming to be Christian, disregarding those Laws has serious consequences. The Israelites of the Old Testament were once called “God’s people” just as the Church today is called “God’s people.” So if we disregard the Moral Laws of God we will be held accountable just as Israel was. Simply put, God will cut us off and throw us into the fire.