Once a Stranger, Now a Friend
By Heidi Baumgartner, Washington Conference communication director
You’ve heard the question before: “Who is my neighbor?” But have you thought about “Who is a stranger?”
Before we know someone, they are a stranger.
But really a stranger has the potential to become an acquaintance who could become a friend or neighbor, who has the potential to become a fellow believer.
I've been reading and reflecting on "Who is my neighbor?" concept of Luke 10, especially in the context of biblical justice, racial tension, friendship evangelism, and how our society can coexist better together.
Here's an interesting piece in this discovery process:
Before we know someone, God promises to watch over that person who is currently a stranger to us (Psalm 146:9, emphasis added).
God gives special provision for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and calls His people to pay attention to this vulnerable people in society, to love and do no wrong (Jeremiah 22:3).
Throughout ancient and modern history, God administers justice and provides for physical needs of food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18).
One of the sins of Jerusalem is oppressing the stranger, as identified in a word of the Lord through Ezekiel (22:7). The Lord of hosts also spoke instructions through Zechariah: "Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion, everyone to his brother," Zechariah 7:9, NKJV.
The sad part?
But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.
They stopped their ears. Their hearts were like flint.
How often do we do something similar when we objectify someone we hate, dislike, don't know or don't make effort to know?
When we do choose to love the stranger, we open our heart (2 Corinthians 7:2) with a desire to understand more and better the person(s) who were once unknown.
It is hard to hate someone with whom you get to know and especially someone for whom you are praying.
We have an invitation (and a Great Example) to soften our hearts, open our ears and listen to the word of the Lord. Justice shouldn’t be a political or politicized word. Justice is good and is represented throughout the Bible and the life and teachings of Jesus.
When we are no longer strangers, we are fellow citizens in God's kingdom. Justice unites us into God's family. God covers us with His righteousness to give us a new and better future in His family. We are united by Jesus Christ our cornerstone, within our diversity as noted in Ephesians.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.
So how are we to be good neighbors? To become fellow citizens?
Stop being a stranger, to God and to your neighbor. This takes an intentional choice and specific action. If you've hated someone, pray for God to transform your heart, attitudes, and actions; and then seek repentance and live out the fruits of the spirit in your interactions.
God calls you and me to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind (Luke 10). With this outflow of God's love, we can then love our neighbor who was once a stranger and now a friend.