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That Line on the Fourth Commandment
Special mention or discrimination?
" Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy." Exodus 20:8-11
I am a foreigner, I live in a beautiful country with many blessings, I have met many interesting people, including my husband and I do not regret my experience, although it will be a lie not to mention that I miss my home country and that living out of that world own references is challenging for me and for the locals.
I never though that much about this line on the fourth commandment when I was in my country. Now, each time I hear, it and it is impossible not to link it to my personal experience. Why God left the foreigners last on that list where there were humans before the animals? Then my thoughts went even deeper questioning if that list had any meaning for God and for us.
People will have attitudes inside their cultures, linked to their enviroment, history, challenges and how they survived those challenges. God created and shaped the different cultures for His glory and honor. Different cultures will share some commonalities and a lot of differences. cultural groups develop ways of communications that others do not have, the references to develop those attitudes are also different and most of the time not present any more...yes, it is complicated.
The cross-cultural problematic is not new but It is not always understood in any case. I am reading a book about introverts and extroverts, and found a concept that illustrates the dimensions that the cross-cultural challenges can take. It is denominated the psychologist's fallacy, and it is described as people reflecting their own value system onto other people. the assumption is that they experience the world in the same way you do. Not surprising, it is all about our cultural references.
By the way, this book (The everything guide to the introvert edge by Annie Kozak) explains how this fallacy also happens between introverts and extroverts. The extroverts do not trust introverts, they feel that if they are so quite they are withholding something, how they can be so quiet? We can also see this mistrust among cultures, when some attitudes are weird into the eyes of the other. Some cultures are more open to foreigners than others, there is not a general rule, but it is generally a source of misunderstandings that should be discussed.
I still feel confused after many years, I am still discovering cross-cultural details. Sometimes, I feel anxious when the thought of not being fully understood or not fully understanding someone grips me at the surprise of events.
I can say, based on my experience, that the more different your cultural background as a Christian foreigner is, the most attached to the Word you need to be, as it would be your only common reference, not without of the challenges of the language and basic understanding of the Bible. However God Himself is really more than enough if your calling is living as a foreigner among other Christians and locals.
Yet, the Bible is full of foreigners in the old and new testament. They are even mentioned in the 10 commandments. Foreigners and locals are warned by God against sin, they are also both protected by the law and God even commands to love them. However when He speaks and refers to them always make the distinction. Personally,I am grateful for this because it helps me to understand the point that I want to develop.
They are both considered humans with the right to be loved by God, to be judged justly and to live among them. However, it is clear that there are differences and these differences will bring conflicts.. No surprises here... God knows our nature, He answered the question before it could even be asked, why them instead of me that I am local? Simply, some people in God's Kingdom are foreigners. The Lord said, yes, also them.
Advancing in my original topic, it is not surprising, we do not even need explanation for the order given in that list. Under normal conditions, you will love more your daughters or sons that you would love your servants and you would love more them than your animals (I know some love more their pets that to anyone else. fair enough). You spend time with them, you need them, you serve them, you create a bond of familiarity. What about the foreigner? He or she does things that we do not understand or we don't even like! They are among locals competing for food, work, housing, it sounds for some even unfair. However, they are under that list. God included them in His Kingdom and they are under His Divine Law and care.
Learning from each other
There are many examples in the Bible of foreigners and their different roles in their communities, look for example at God's answer to Aaron and Miriam after they criticized Moses' wife (Zipporah), because she was different, a foreigner to their culture.
“If there were prophets among you,
I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions.
I would speak to them in dreams.
But not with my servant Moses.
Of all my house, he is the one I trust.
I speak to him face to face,
clearly, and not in riddles!
He sees the Lord as he is.
So why were you not afraid
to criticize my servant Moses?
The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them." Numbers 12:6-9
"Moses was very humble- more humble that any other person on earth" but God became angry and punished temporally Miriam, infecting her with leprosy. God defended Moses's choice but also warned Miriam against discrimination. Yes, if a foreigner fails God will also speak to him or her in a call for obedience, for the Lord is impartial in His ways. An example can be found in Exodus 24:26, where Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin, as the Lord almost killed Moses for disobeying him regarding circumcision.
"But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
Exodus 4: 24-26
At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)
On this point, I would not say that this commandment give a more or less important status to the foreigner, He is speaking about impartiality to the locals and about their inclusion and call for obedience to the foreigners.
I would say that this commandment spoke to Miriam's heart each time she thought about her brother's foreigner wife!