“I’m bored,” my 5 year-old granddaughter declares after not being the center of attention, nor having been entertained for approximately five minutes. She is simply learning early what many of us fall victim to; the need to be entertained and stimulated. MTV began the process of shortening attention spans almost 40 years ago. Social media has elevated the need for stimulation to an art form.
But, what if drudgery was a virtue? Many of you are reading the Bible through 2022, using the schedule I suggested you use. There is much discipline involved, needing to read the assignment daily to avoid getting too far behind and hopelessly left in the dust. There is a certain drudgery in reading parts of the Hebrew Bible (OT). There are way too many begets, lists, and genealogies for most of our taste. But, we slog through it because we committed ourselves.
Here’s what you may not have realized: while you can’t quote every verse, you have and are gaining a sense of the spirit of the Judeo-Christian understanding of God and God’s purpose in the world. You know now that there are two events that are writ large in Israel’s history, the Exodus and the Exile. In short, the Exodus is about God’s redemption and the Exile is about God’s restoration. Israel has a keen understanding of what it means to be oppressed and alien in a foreign land. They also know what not having a permanent home is like.
The word “alien” or “aliens” is used in the NRSV translation a remarkable 138 times! Abraham spent time as an alien in spite of God’s promise of a home land. Israel was alien in Egypt, even being oppressed to the point of slavery. Exodus 12.48 invites aliens to become part of the covenant and celebrate passover. Exodus 22.21 instructs Israel not to “wrong or oppress a resident alien for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23.9 says, “you shall not oppress an alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
It gets worse. As God is handing down Torah to Moses, we read this in Numbers 9.14: “Any alien residing among you who wishes to keep the Passover to the Lord shall do so according to the statute of the Passover and according to its regulation; you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native (emphasis mine).” God, take note you literalists, declared there to be no distinction between resident alien and native residents. There are still about 135 references to go, but, hey, given our short attention spans (see above), we will stop there.
Those who would use human beings (read illegal aliens) as props in publicity stunts, spending $12M in the process, thank you Florida, have no knowledge nor understanding of Scripture as it pertains to this issue. Some are quick to use Hebrew Scripture to condemn behaviors not in keeping with their morality, yet, are completely silent on God’s Word as it pertains to aliens.
Yes, we know it’s political and we know neither side has any real interest in solving the “crisis” at the border because it is a hot button that can be relied upon when other hot buttons cool. It is red meat to the faithful. But in the meantime, clearly contrary to Scripture, we are oppressing and abusing aliens for political gain. I am quite sure neither side is going to fix the problem, so, why don’t we simply learn to recognize aliens as the human beings they are and look for ways to welcome them home? Martha’s Vineyard is to be commended.
When we stand before the eternal bar of justice, and Scripture is pretty clear that is going to happen, I doubt God will ask nor care if we mindlessly voted for our declared political party. I suspect God will be concerned about how we related to the least, the lost, you know, the alien among us. That’s the virtue.