Not strangers, but friends
The United States of America celebrates our independence every Fourth of July. We will commemorate the day, at St. James, this Sunday the fifth, using the lectionary (set scriptures) for Independence Day. The Old Testament takes its reading from Deuteronomy which tells us that God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses “is not partial and takes no bribes.” We are all blessed in God’s eyes and God will not be bought by our wealth, intellect, and not even by our “righteousness.” The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, goes even further saying that we are “love our enemies” and to “pray for those who persecute” us. God lays claim to all of us and reminds us that we are not to exclude any of His children nor consider anyone outside the tent of His love, not even enemies.
WE all understand that many, before and after Genesis was written (probably in stages between the 10th and 2nd Centuries BCE) humans have continued to exclude groups, swaths of people, from their group or tribe because they were “other,” in some way. Exclusion can exist on any number of bases, from race to ethnic background to gender to class to language to religious practice/belief to age to class and on and on down the line. God commands first people, Israel, to take care of “strangers” because “you were once strangers in Egypt.” The Lord reminds His people that they were once slaves, outcasts, and considered less than human by their captors. The same, of course, was done by white Europeans to African people beginning as early as the 15th Century and, ultimately, quite simply, to non-European people throughout the world. Folks in the United States, whether of European ancestry or African, Asian, and/or of indigenous origin, have reaped, as a result of colonization and marginalization, the whirlwind of racial inequity and unremitting challenge in coping with difference.
I know how easy it can be to see the second paragraph above as a distinctly political issue and that fatigue often can set in. But our Lord has much to say about how we are called to treat each other: with love, respect, and acts of blessing. We are not monolithic (white folks, black folks, Asian or Hispanic folks, indigenous folks). There are many differences between any one of us; none of us are the same while, certainly, we share many things, too. But we are all children of God and we are all destined for love, blessing, and unmerited generosity because of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no black or white, no male or female, when it comes to our worth in the eyes of God. We are not strangers – we are brought near to one another by virtue of God’s great and continuing love in Christ, who makes us all friends. If we cannot use our faith, the ultimate guiding force in the world, to bring us together, then our differences will surely tear us apart. I hope that we may listen and finally learn that our God is not partisan; God would have us all under His tent, sharing a meal, offering our love, and living into the kingdom He has made with room enough for all.