Stranger. Foreigner. Alien. Immigrant.
People who carry these labels often carry little else. They’ve usually left their home and everything they own to flee violence, persecution, famine, poverty and more.
It’s easy to look away when someone comes to us desperate to escape circumstances we can’t even imagine. To shrug them off as different, in need, a burden – and to leave the effort of providing and caring for them to someone else.
Jesus didn’t think this way. He didn’t differentiate between neighbors and strangers. He loved, welcomed and accepted all.
His was a radical form of empathy. And he was especially mindful of the marginalized, the broken, the hungry and the homeless.
Perhaps that’s because Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus were refugees too.
You know about Jesus’ birth in a manger in Bethlehem. But do you know what happened next? King Herod, worried about rumors of a newborn “king of the Jews,” ordered every infant boy in the land killed in an effort to preserve his throne.
To protect Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. Strangers in a strange land, they stayed there until Herod’s death.
Jesus was unmatched in his ability to put himself in someone else’s sandals. And he encouraged others to do the same – literally – by telling people that whatever they do for the least of us, they also did for him.
To Jesus, the golden rule of loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t just apply to people we know. It also applies to people we don’t know – especially those in need.