Acts of Faith: A call to empathy

— image credit:

We get bogged down and distracted by the negativity surrounding the biblical texts in our culture and society.

One biblical concept that restores my faith in the glory of the bible is the sojourner, or the alien, the person dwelling in a foreign land.

The cultural chasm between the biblical world and ours is sometimes difficult to cross, but we are keenly aware of what it means to be a in a foreign land.

The life of the sojourner is challenging, isolating and long-suffering.

Canada recently declared Mexico a safe place to live. That will cause alarm for any who are aware of the growing violence and organized crime making many cities extremely dangerous places to live. Canada’s designation is not about the living conditions in Mexico or the safety of travel, but a statement determining how we are going to treat Mexican immigrants. The statement makes certain immigration possibilities unavailable, most notably the refugee status.

We are keenly aware of our borders and cultural surroundings. We feel out of place when we are unfamiliar with language, cultural practices and the unspoken societal rules. We become vulnerable.

Addressing this vulnerability in the sojourner, Leviticus sets an ethical standard far above the societal standards of the time, and even challenges us today.

“You are to not oppress the alien…you are to consider the sojourner a citizen among you ... love the alien as yourself ... For you were once an alien in Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34.)

Law codes determine a minimum ethical standard and dictate appropriate actions, and every law code contains a motivation. The Leviticus law code often includes punitive motivation.

When addressing the treatment of sojourners and aliens, however, Leviticus calls for the highest ethical standards: love them as yourself.

Instead of simply dictating actions, the law continues, “for you were once aliens,” and calls the reader to identify with the alien, to identify with the ‘other.’

Found in this strict religious law code is the  magnificent concept of the sojourner and a call to empathy.

Bradley Christianson-Barker is pastor at Open Door Church.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Maple Ridge man plucked off mountain after a week
Still no funding for Maple Ridge youth shelter as year end looms
Ridge teens are dirt bike champions
No injuries in fiery Lamborghini crash in South Surrey
UBC scientist says chinook salmon may be wiped out
Heather Forsyth named Wildrose interim leader
7-year-old girl buried, killed in Lions Bay rockslide
Al-Jazeera shuts down its Egypt channel
Community generosity overflows the food bank in District of Kent

Community Events, December 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Dec 19 edition online now. Browse the archives.