“This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it…A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house…But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.
Being a stranger in the bunch, the real stickler is finding acceptance. Traveling amidst difficult conditions with the Hebrew is a life & death concern if you have not been warmly received into their camp. The alien took steps from his doorway in Egypt not without soon inquiring from his rumbling belly, “what must I do in order to get a meal with these guys?1” Now The stranger took those initial steps out of his brick home just as the Hebrew did. The stranger had the full spectrum of emotions parading through the streets of his heart just as certain as the Hebrew had, did he not? Oh, but isn’t the burden of the stranger greater than that of the Hebrew? The Hebrew isn’t fighting for acceptance with the people of God, he is already in. It is the stranger who had to struggle against the machine. God was oiling and organizing a nation, and He stipulated that His national house should not be compromised for any stranger2. So the man standing outside the Hebrew’s house is exceedingly burdened as He looks in through the lattice: “There’s plenty of meat to go around…well…that is…in the Hebrew’s house, but man, outside… I have to fend for my own meat. Tough break these Hebrews make!”
And then, just while it seemed he had made a mistake by hitching up with these people of God, it was told the stranger what he could do to be accepted. “What did you say I have to do? Did you say…no you couldn’t have…did I hear that right…you want me to be…circumcised?! You must be kidding! That’s a sensitive spot there! Let’s not make this a sore subject! Tell me, what else can I do to join the club instead of…THAT!?” If the stranger had any thoughts regarding these Hebrew people as being standoffish or making strong demands, there was no question now! “You Hebrews sure do drive a hard bargain! Skin for skin huh? Meat for meat huh? Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but I prize what skin I have. My flesh is not for sale here. Besides, that area is sensitive, intimate, and private.”
In reality, you may be that stranger who was never nestled nicely into the church as you grew up. You may have found that leaving the world’s grip on you, its pressures over you, and its competitive system against you something hard to do. But now, on top of all that, trying to find acceptance with the people of God makes for a sore subject. You know what they preach. You’ve heard their doctrine. And it all seems a bit over-the-top. To submit to their price for living cooperatively with them in God’s departing community is to put the knife in an awfully sensitive spot: “You’re asking me to do what? Don’t go there! I’m not doing that. Isn’t there some other means for living in the Christian community than to cut out…you know…THAT? Hey, that’s sensitive. Don’t talk about giving up my TV programming. And no way am I letting go of my weekends with the family. That’s an intimate area of my life. Don’t press the issue of my behavior. Those things are private to me. You can’t possibly be asking me to cut out my revelry, that’ll be a sore subject if you go there. Can’t I have Christ outside of the church-house? Can’t you just split the meal & give it to me while I stand outside in my own space?
Listen, stranger, I know you have had a harder time with life than many. Finding your way out of the world’s corruptions and death traps that steal away your enthusiasm for a spiritual journey has been a trip that others have NOT had to make. I know that to leave Egypt and enter into the community of God’s people can be a real fight for acceptance. But listen, if you will deal with that sore spot in your past, if you will submit to the Lord in cutting out that sensitive scenario presently, if you will accept Jesus’ command concerning that private part of your life, we as God’s church back-packing-it to a grander place will accept you with everything we have. “What is that? What can you offer?” you might ask. It’s that goodness which first drew you to us away from the struggle of the world. It’s a loving God who draws you & brings you to a better place.
Stranger, I invite you to “come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has promised good3” concerning His church, and “So it will be, if you go with us, it will come about that whatever good the Lord does for us, we will do for you4.”