The Foreigner Who Lives Among You


This post is the first of four written for students on an alternative spring break with the Farm Workers Support Committee here in South Jersey and in eastern Pennsylvania.

We may be quite familiar with the command Jesus takes from chapter 19 of Leviticus, calling it the second of the two greatest commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The first he takes from chapter 6 of Deuteronomy: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Binding the two commands together as inseparable, Jesus confirms that love for God cannot and must not be cordoned off as a religious or spiritual matter set apart from justice, respect, and compassion within the community.

But what are the limits? Where may God’s people draw the lines of exclusion? When an authority on biblical law asks Jesus to clarify, “Who is my neighbor?” what the man is really asking is who is not his neighbor. Whom may he righteously exclude from the command to love?

Who is not our neighbor? Leviticus answers in a surprising way by including a person quite likely to be excluded: the ger (pronounced as gair), the non-citizen.

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