As a pretext to this blog, you should read Judges 19. Here’s a link to an NIV translation of that chapter. http://biblehub.com/niv/judges/19.htm
As I read this passage again, I find it to be a commentary on how we are to treat strangers. There are three very distinct attitudes towards strangers that I see in this passage.
The first is the master’s attitude toward strangers. He refused to go to stay the night in Jebus. The Bible doesn’t specifically say why, except that he did not want to spend the night with foreigners when there were nearby Israelite towns. Perhaps, he had heard stories of a time when the Jebusites went to war against Joshua. Perhaps their customs seemed strange. Perhaps, he did not want to stick out like a sore thumb among people whose language and religion were slightly different from his own.
Imagine now, this husband, his two donkeys, his servant and his concubine walking along the dusty road. Think of how tired this servant must be, to be bold enough to suggest that they stop and rest. It is out of place, as the servant is silent for the entire passage, except here. He does not speak at the home of the father-in-law. He doesn’t speak when the mob is beating at the door to ravish the master. He only speaks to ask that they turn aside for the night.
But the master, maybe out of pride (He is a Levite, after all), maybe out of fear (Jebus could be unfriendly territory) will not heed the plea of his weary servant. He presses on to a place where he feels he will be more comfortable, amongst his brethren.
We cannot fault him too much, because we are all prone to this behavior. We want to be near folks who look like us, who speak our language, people who worship like we do. Take a look at the people around you. More than likely, they have similar education and socio-economic status. You probably pray to the same God. There is nothing wrong with this. Birds of a feather are supposed to flock together. It is for their mutual benefit. The problem is not in choosing to be around people who are like us. The problem lies in how we treat those who are not like us, the strangers.
Some would say that his attitude toward the unfamiliar may have protected him from even greater calamity. I do not necessarily disagree. In the modern context, though, the strategy of avoiding the ‘stranger’ is nearly impossible.
The person who sits next to you on the plane may speak a completely different language. The person who just bought the house next door may have a different religion, or no religion at all. Co-workers can vary in creed, color, religion, sexual orientation. We are constantly surrounded by the “other”.
Like the master, we can choose not to engage the ‘stranger’, but in doing so, we may very well miss out on great treasures.
‘Strangers’ can teach us so much about the world and even some things about ourselves. Their ability to see things in a different light can provide us with a great deal of insight.
Many years later, Jebus became Jerusalem. The town this Levite decided to bypass became the chosen City of David, the site of the palace and the temple. King David saw potential in a place this Levite would not even consider.
I do not want to negate the reality of STRANGER DANGER. There are scary people in this world. (Remember the 1980s-1990s kidnapper van?) If you get a bad vibe, you’re right to follow your intuition. But by and large, remember we are ALL just regular people, who go to work every day and want what is best for our families. There is nothing strange about that.
Next week we’ll look at the men of Gibeah and their attitudes towards strangers.