Exodus 23:9 equates the experience of being a foreigner with the experience of being oppressed. “You know what it feels like to be foreigners.” To be an outsider. Ridiculed. Alone. Hated. Labeled. Enslaved. Exploited. What does that feel like? Terrifying. Shameful. Sorrowful. Hopeless. Exhausting. Out of control. Unexplainable to children. Destructive to marriage.
No wonder many of our immigrant brothers and sisters in the U.S. are so desperate for God. No wonder that in the midst of suffering and sacrifice, it is among immigrant communities that the American church is most vibrant. These experiences sound a lot like Jesus’ feelings as the divine-foreigner: “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.”
In my experience, Good Friday is often a deeper, more powerful experience in the midst of oppressed communities. They feel, almost palpably, the same rejection, betrayal, and isolation Jesus did in their daily lives. And our “foreigner” friends are often still waiting for resurrection day power to be demonstrated in their lives while others of us camp out, celebrating Easter because our lives feel more like celebrations. Maybe, this Lent, those on the margins as well as those well inside them can walk together through the sorrow and brokenness of Good Friday to the joy and celebration of Easter.
Those not familiar with Jesus way of suffering will find it a transformational—following Jesus on the margins. We forget what it feels like to suffer, to sacrifice. Therefore, sometimes we forget to care. We do not speak up or defend. We do not embrace those labeled, hated, and alone. We forget that Christ became a stranger and suffered to fulfil God’s mission in the world—to reach those who were strangers and far from God—to welcome them home.
So, what is our challenge? To love our Jesus who lived in the margins during his earthly life and lives today on the margins with those who are oppressed and ostracized. To remember who we are (“strangers and aliens”) and how that feels. To stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters. To embrace and defend those who are discriminated against. To walk through the suffering and celebration of Holy Week.