“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Lev 19:33-34).

Lest God’s people limit actions of love only to their neighbors (Lev 19:17-18), God makes it clear that the love commandment must be equally applied to the non-Israelites living in their midst (vv. 33-34; see Luke 10:25-37). The verb “to oppress” (y-n-h) frequently appears alongside the word “stranger” in the Hebrew Bible (Exod 22:20; Lev 19:33; Jer 22:3; Ezek 22:7, 29), an ongoing reminder that we (God’s people) have a tendency of mistreating and/or taking advantage of “foreigners” who aren’t, after all, card-carrying members of God’s “chosen” people. But the Bible insists that we must love strangers by the same standard we love our neighbors: “as ourselves” (v. 34).

An Oppressing Prophet

The practical application of this commandment is so important to God that it is given an entire book of the Bible: The Book of Jonah. Jonah despised non-Israelites, be they Gentile sailors (chapter 1) or pagan Ninevites (chapter 3). Although he knew the gracious, compassionate, and long-suffering character of God (Jonah 4:2), he actively sought ways to hinder God from sharing these attributes with strangers. Jonah was perfectly fine with “loving someone as himself,” just so long as that someone was his neighbor. The prophet’s ethnocentric, theologically bigoted attitude towards non-Israelites was the embodiment of not loving the stranger as himself. And so it is likely not a coincidence that Jonah’s name in Hebrew comes from the same Hebrew verb which Leviticus 19:33 explicitly prohibits: “Jonah” in Hebrew means “oppressor” (Jer 25:38; 46:16; 50:16; Zeph 3:1).

Our mission in this world is to end all oppression by sharing his love with strangers.

The story of Jonah is a reminder to God’s people that we have been chosen for a purpose. And that purpose is not to keep God’s blessings all to ourselves! Our mission in this world is to end all oppression by sharing his love with strangers. And it is through the preaching of the gospel that God miraculously transforms the believing strangers of this world into our neighbors!

“Then the LORD said, ‘You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?'” (Jonah 4:10-11).

Show the world you are One for Israel!

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