"I am a stranger in this world just passing through." -- Anthem Lights
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about Jesus’ words, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me...[when] you did it to one of the least of these my brothers."
They don’t make much sense. In the context of the Scripture, Jesus aligns Himself with the stranger, the sick, the prisoner, and the poor (those without food, water, or clothing). Pardon me, but what do these groups of people have in common with the Savior of the universe? A prisoner is at best unlucky and at worst a bastion of evil. The poor are down and out. The sick are weak and helpless. The stranger is…well…unknown and strange. Why would Jesus identify with these quality traits?
I was talking today with a client of our Immigrant Legal Clinic. She came to America over 25 years ago. She has faced spousal abuse, racial discrimination, and severe health issues. She is also a strong Christian. As she was speaking to me, she looked at me and poignantly spoke the words in a beautiful African accent, “I have not arrived. I am not home yet. Never think you have arrived.”
A gentle electrical warmth spread through my chest. I knew Jesus was speaking to me through this stranger. A woman from a small island off the coast of Africa, brought to America on a journey almost three decades ago, was the mouthpiece of my Lord for me today.
What does she have in common with Jesus? In John 18:36, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He would often get away to solitary places to pray. He broke norms. He experienced moments of having to live in shadows to survive. He longed for His real home. His missed His real Father. He experienced brokenness. He was affected by sin. He longed for justice. He knew deep loss, having “emptied Himself,” to take the form of a servant. This parallels the life of a stranger, a refugee, an immigrant.
I long for connection with Jesus. When I welcome the stranger, and pause to give that person occasion to speak into my life, my cores begins to identify with that person. In doing so, I experience encounter with the Lord. And then I remember more easily that I am also a stranger, and the kingdom to which I truly belong is one where we are all simply strangers welcomed home.