Welcoming the Stranger

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It was brought to my attention recently that there is an event going on this Friday at 7pm at Church of the Good Shepherd (Durham, NC) entitled “Welcoming the Stranger: a biblical perspective on loving all our immigrant neighbors.”

In Exodus, God puts great emphasis on the treatment of the needy, including the sojourner:

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

Exodus 22:2

Reading this during this past week along with hearing about the event caught my attention, so I thought I should let others know about it. Here is the synopsis from the website:

In a time when “the immigration problem” is becoming more divisive, Christians must cut through the rhetoric on all sides and listen clearly to what God teaches us through the Bible. How do we, today, listen and respond to God’s declaration of love for the immigrant?

God loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. Therefore you are to love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt (Deut 10:18-19).

Instead of advocating for a particular stance on immigration reform, this event seeks to remind us that immigrants arepeople and not representatives ofa problem. What does it mean to love our immigrant neighbors in the Triangle, including undocumented immigrants?

Love does not eradicate the many worthy questions of immigration policy—what about those who are here illegally?, what about the economic realities?—but it does require us to engage. Loving our immigrant neighbors starts with learning, and that’s the purpose of this event, Welcoming the Stranger. We hope you will join us at this free community event. Please invite everyone you know.

Our Good Shepherd

John 10 is a powerful passage and picture of the love Christ has for us. Jesus is our Shepherd, the one who cares for us, protects us, guides us. He is our Good Shepherd for he will not forsake us, no matter what. We have confidence that we will be with him always and this theme is carried on later in chapter ten as we are told that we cannot be snatched out of God’s hand.

Beyond the imagery of Christ as Good Shepherd, Jesus issues another “I AM” statement in verse nine, “I am the door.” This calls to mind the unique role that Christ has in our faith. There is one flock and one shepherd (v16). We can only enter by Christ, for those who do not enter the door are thieves and robbers (v1).

But in a way the roles of shepherd and door are closely related. This was written about fifty years ago by Eric Bishop and he relates a story he heard while while traveling in the Middle East:

In the afternoon I set out to see the sights about the village. Not far away I came to a mound of earth piled up in a large circle, like a crude rampart, and on the top of the mound all around the circle was a heap of dry thorns. As I stood wondering what this might be one of the villagers approached me. “Salaam,” I said, “please tell me what this enclosure is for.”

“Oh, that is for the sheep,” he replied. “They are brought in here for the night for safety.”

“Good,” I said, “but why have the dry thorns been piled on top of the wall?”

“That,” he replied, “is a protection against wolves. If a wolf tries to break in and attack the sheep, he will knock against the thorns, and they will make a noise, and the shepherd will wake up, and drive off the wolf.”

“That is fine,” I said, “but why does the wolf try to climb over the wall? Here is the entrance to the enclosure; it is open. There is no door to keep out the wolf; he could easily enter here.”

“Oh no,” said my guide, “you do not understand. That is where the shepherd sleeps, the shepherd is the door.

And then I understood something that had often puzzled me. It became clear to me why Jesus had in John 10 called Himself first the Door and then immediately afterwards the Shepherd. Since He is Shepherd He is also the Door.

Eric F.F. Bishop, “The Door of the Sheep – John x.7-9,” Expository Times 71 (1960): 307-309.

Truly Christ is the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us. Take time to contemplate that painful reality as we slowly go through passion week.