“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33,34)
Try as we might, it really is hard to take Christianity seriously and yet keep it separated from areas which might be thought of as political. I freely confess that Leviticus is not my favourite book and I was struggling to think of something to write. But in skim-reading I came across the above passage, just after an exhortation to respect the elderly.
Like some of you, the first biblical story that came to mind was the parable of the good Samaritan. As shocking as the racial politics of that may have been, the Jews that Jesus was addressing will probably have been familiar with the idea from this passage (and others like it, including Exodus 22:21 & Deut 10:19). How we treat those who are, to us, foreigners, is still an issue that is alive and kicking. Just within the last week, the current government has given sketch plans on limiting what rights some immigrants might have. The fact that UKIP polled 2nd in the recent Eastleigh by-election shows that this one-issue protest party are touching a raw nerve amongst some.
One’s faith is not always a determinant of one’s political affiliations. The MPs for Luton South and South-West Bedfordshire, two adjoining constituencies, are both christians. The former represents the Labour party, the latter the Conservatives. I wonder how their faith informs, and is informed by, their political views. For my part, I find it hard to reconcile the attitudes of politicians such as Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan-Smith with anything resembling a Christian worldview with respect to how we treat those who have come to live among us.
One of the interesting notes here is the reason given. It is an aspect of loving others as yourself. Leviticus may often be seen as a book of rules and religious ceremonies, many of which have either been fulfilled or restated in the New Testament, yet we see here that it is not just dry religiosity. From the outset, the Mosaic law has gracious, selfless love as part of its fabric. So if that is part of its make-up, what is at its heart? God. Throughout the second half of chapter 19, the refrain, “I am the Lord” or “I am the Lord your God” is repeated. There ought to be no doubt about where the focus should be.