The case for
We live in a time when our fear of strangers - more than the strangers themselves - threatens our faith, our values, the good will that we hope makes us human beings. Too often, we look at strangers with suspicion, disdain, even hatred. We may think of strangers as outsiders and assume that they are less moral, less thoughtful and more conniving than we are. We, on the inside of whatever circle we’ve drawn around ourselves, focus on differences, real or imagined. We see insurmountable obstacles dividing us. We don’t look for common ground, if we believe that it exists at all.
But the Bible sees strangers differently - and challenges us to do the same. Woven through the Old and New Testaments are stories about outsiders who embody the true characteristics of faith, truer than those of the insiders - the Hebrews, Israelites, Jews or followers of Jesus that they meet. If we read these stories carefully, they remind us that we insiders can’t afford to overlook the ways in which strangers are the people we say we want to be.
After years of covering religion and meeting strangers who have enlightened me time and again, I’ve written a book, Sacred Strangers: What the Bible’s Outsiders Can Teach Christians. I invite you to read along with me half a dozen Bible stories. Let’s think about how the Bible’s strangers are holy examples we need to survive, even thrive, in a world where violence aims to separate us and mire us all in despair. Strangers can be our teachers, if only we let them.