“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
If Moses had written Exodus 22:21 as a song for the congregation to sing, he might’ve called it ‘The Symphony of Empathy.’ What we find here is the golden rule, written as much on our human hearts as it is on this crude parchment, found in some way, shape, or form in all cultures, tribes, and tongues.
If only these Hebrews would remember how much it pained them when Pharaoh doubled their workload and stopped furnishing them with straw and beat them when they didn’t make bricks in time. If only they’d remember how they longed for compassion from their benefactors, how they cried out for mercy and wept bitterly on days it wasn’t given. Maybe then they’d have compassion for others. And if only they’d recall those Egyptian neighbors who took pity on them, who brought them food and clothing and spices and treated them with kindness, who feared the Lord and provided safe haven on days it was needed, maybe then they’d feel an urgency to pass on that example to someone else.
Do you hear the gospel of our Lord resonating through the notes of this symphony, friend? As Philippians 2 says, “Christ emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant … And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ was a sojourner too. A Man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief. No—drenched in it! Draped in the high priestly robe of our abandonment and abuse and blasphemies. Passing through the very world He’d fashioned, yet we deemed Him smitten by God. Even though He reached out to us; even though He walked with us day after day, and taught us on the hillsides, and fed us by the sea, and healed our diseases, we still screamed in unison, each in his own voice, with hellish fury: ‘Be off! Good riddance! You’re not welcome here!’ Yet His voice triumphed over ours in heavenly calm, “Father, forgive them!”
To the foreigner, to the widow, to the orphan, to the unkind neighbor, to the annoying co-worker, to the nagging in-law, to the despondent friend, may the symphony of Christ’s empathy resound through our lives today.