In this volume of Resonance, we turn to a topic that is rooted at the very heart of the gospel: our relationship with the strangers that we encounter along life’s way. How is this theme central to the Christian faith? Jesus made the case powerfully in the Gospel of Luke when he answered the lawyer’s question “who is my neighbor.” Through the parable of the Good Samaritan we find that God defines “neighbor” as every other human being that we encounter. What is more He commands us to “love our neighbor as our-self” and affirms multiple times that this, along with our all consuming love for Him, sums up the whole of scripture. Nothing is more central to the journey of Christian discipleship than these two things: loving God and loving our neighbor.
Now if our neighbor includes everyone, it is obvious that we have a lot of “strange” neighbors. People who do not look like us, do not speak as we do, keep different customs, and have different abilities. Often such clear external differences cause people to react with fear or suspicion. The logic seems to go: “those who are not like us must not think or feel the same way we do and therefore they pose a threat.” In fact, we regularly deploy words which carry negative connotations (like “stranger,” “alien,” and “foreigner”) to describe “those other people.”
The Gospel message radically challenges such logic. Instead of fearing, we are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves regardless of their strangeness. Furthermore, we are reminded that before Christ we were ourselves “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). In this volume, we will explore the various facets of this theme and examine their implications for the life of the believer. May God grant us all the courage to follow Him along this cruciform journey to love the stranger!
Your servant in Christ,