What does it mean to be a “foreigner”?

Are the words “foreigner” and “gentile” as used in Exodus 22:21 and Romans 11:18 the same?

Exodus 22:21 says: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (NIV). It seems to encourage living peaceable with the entire family of God, one’s neighbor (as in “loving they neighbor”, Mark 12:31), and treating people with kindness out of remembrance for what God has done for you (kinda like taking communion, as in Luke 22:19).

Romans 11:18 on the other hand says “But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root” (NIV). It focuses on being as one family in God with our natural root being Christ, and the promise that was made to the Hebrews that you and I are lucky enough to also receive. Stressing the lack of partiality before God, we are told to treat others who are inside the faith kindly, and not to brag to others outside of the faith.

The difference between Exodus 22:21 and Romans 11:18 seems to be the insider vs. outsider perspective, and how it was meant to be stewarded with different covenants. With the Old Testament and the covenant made to Abraham, the children of God were told to treat their neighbors with such love as they had received, so that people would come to believe in God (though not necessarily inheriting his promises). With Exodus, we see that by way of Christ’s sacrifice, by faith we are saved. We are told to remember that those who are unsaved or un-churched are not so different from us, and that we out to humbly receive from God as if we were the natural branches who were not broken off. While this passage speaks to not create drama within the church, it also reminds us to focus our attention on Christ who makes us righteous, and to not cast divisions between ourselves and the outside world. Creating pointless jealousy slanders the church, and we are told to come to worship with the love of God and genuine thanksgiving.

Ultimately, we are all separate and foreign to God except by way of Christ. Separated from he who is holy by sin and the desire to indulge it, we all need a Savior to make the way for us. Treating those who are unlike us with mercy and the same grace afforded to us by Christ Jesus isn’t just in order to reflect God’s character, but also because Christ paid for them. If if people never accept Jesus, they were still bought and ransomed by the blood of God (in Christ). Remembering that we are all family is key to treating people with the respect they are due as fellow children of God.


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I am a second-grade teacher and pastor-to-be who loves people. I spend my weekends with friends or wandering the museums of DC alone and with a journal, trying to put words on the places of the soul that still feel wordless. I spent most of my days at school trying to learn patience through my students and running on sheer nerdy passion. I follow Jesus Christ, and savor that as my most important identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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