One of the most unpleasant cultural shifts in the UK at the present time is the increasing tendency towards xenophobia…the fear of the stranger…fueled as it is by the gutter media and the present Government. As a Christian, I am very aware that sooner or later our faith must come into direct confrontation with this attitude.
‘Strangers’ come in all guises…the foreigner, the poor, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the disabled, the person who believes different things to me…anything that makes you different to me, that threatens my view of what’s ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.
Those of us who are familiar with the Bible often miss the fact that Jesus lived in a world of ‘strangers’…the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs and the Samaritans come to mind…and despite his commitment to the Jewish people he often made himself unpopular by his unequivocal acceptance of those his society considered to be foreign outcasts. He also had an uncanny knack of siding with the poor, women, children and people in dubious professions. None of which made him popular with the powers that be, and we all know where that took him.
It is difficult to duck the fact that welcome and defense of the stranger is central to being a Christian. The early church started from the viewpoint that actually, all Christians are aliens and strangers in an often hostile world (Hebrews 11: 13), so who are we to look down on others.
This attitude was built on the foundation of God’s commands to Israel in the Old Testament:
Exodus 22:21 (NLT)
Do not oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:33 (NLT)
Do not exploit the foreigners who live in your land.  They should be treated like everyone else, and you must love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God.
The 3rd Letter of John in the New Testament is all about how the church should offer hospitality:
3 John 5 (NLT)
Dear friend, you are doing a good work for God when you take care of the traveling teachers who are passing through, even though they are strangers to you.
Perhaps the most telling scriptures of all have to do with how in welcoming and caring for the stranger Jesus says that actually, so strong is his identification with the stranger, we are in fact caring for him.
Matthew 25:35-40 (NLT)
 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’  And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
And in Hebrews:
Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)
 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
I saw a stranger yestreen;
I put the food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place;
And, in the sacred name of the Triune,
He blessed myself and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark said in her song,
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise;
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise
Gaelic Rune of Hospitality, translated by Kenneth Macleod (1871-1955)