By Brent DeWees
We live in a mobile society and I would expect people to be able to fit into new and different situations. Yet, it seems it is still hard to be the new kid on the block. When you’re the new person in a community, everyone already knows everyone else. Each person in a group has a part to play in the dynamics of the community. The new person often has a hard time fitting in whether at school, on the job, or even in church. The Israelites were part of a closed community in many ways. It seems the privilege of being God’s chosen people led them to develop an air of superiority that caused outsiders in the community not only to be looked down upon, but to be mistreated as well.
Growing up in Ohio during the Woody Hayes football era, I began to sense that anyone from Michigan was the enemy. As a young person, I actually thought if you saw a car broken down along the road with a Michigan license plate, you should pass it by, and perhaps yell something derogatory to add insult to the driver’s pain! This may be how the Israelites felt about anyone who was not part of their native country. I eventually learned that not everyone from Michigan was evil, and God instructed the Israelites to treat others (the disabled, the neighbors, and the aliens) with respect, honesty, love.
Christians today may find themselves in a situation similar to that of the ancient Israelites—living in a world of sinners who are seemingly inferior because they have not tasted of the goodness of God. The temptation is to keep aloof, to point at the non-Christian and to treat him as an outsider to the promises of God, just as the Israelites did—when we should love outsiders as ourselves. The next time you feel the urge to think about “them and us,” remember: Jesus died for all— them too!
Brent DeWees is the preaching minister of the Ripley Church of Christ in Ripley, West Virginia. He, his wife Diane, and son Nathanael live in Sherman, West Virginia.