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High School Rivalries

High School Rivalries

You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

When I was in high school, like everyone, we had our rivalries with other nearby towns. When, on a Saturday night, the guys from those other towns came to Beresford – yes Beresford – they were treated as unwelcome outsiders. We didn’t know them, we didn’t like them, and we didn’t want their kind hanging around. I knew it was a stupid sentiment, but still, it was how we felt about strangers. I also remember realizing this – If you’d have taken one of those guys from another town and one of us, out of southeastern South Dakota and dropped us in the Middle East, we’d have immediately found common ground. Hey, you’re from South Dakota? Me too! Our rivalry would melt away as we found comfort in how much we were alike. In a foreign country, where we were the outsiders, we’d realize that our differences were quite small and petty.

I’ve had this same growing realization over the last 20 years about minority populations in my own community. I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth revisiting – We moved to Willmar, Minnesota in 2002, with the memory of 9/11 fresh in our minds. At that same time, there was a substantial influx of Somalis, a universally Muslim population, into our community. I remember hearing this and nodding my head – Why would we let them live here if they want to destroy us? They were outsiders and we didn’t want their kind hanging around.

Well, it’s 20 years later, and I have yet to have a Somali threaten my way of life. I’ve come to see that they love their children and want what’s best for them, just like I do. They may worship a different god and we may have cultural differences, but if you took us both and dropped us on some alien planet, we’d easily be able to find comfort in how much we have in common.

This seems to be God’s message in today’s passage – Don’t alienate the alien among you. Several times in the Bible, God revealed his heart for the traveling foreigner. God knows our propensity to ostracize those who’re different from us, and he hates it. God asks that, as Christians, we love our neighbors, even if they worship a different god or have different customs than we do. We’re to welcome them in, loving them as God has loved us. We were once strangers to God, yet he loved us, so we too must love those around us – even if they’re from another town or another country.

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