The word “stranger” is basically defined as a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar. The word “stranger” comes from the Latin word extraneus, which means “exterior” or “from the outside.” Therefore, generally speaking, a stranger is someone who may be considered an outsider because of religion, culture, race, or whatever the reason.
If we look around the room this morning we may find at least one or two people who are strangers to us. Each of us, have been strangers ourselves on different occasions.
For example, for 20 years of my life I served on active duty in the United States Navy. During those 20 years, I was blessed with opportunities to travel all over the world on different assignments. I was even blessed to live in a few different countries for a time. In each of those situations, I was considered the stranger or the outsider. However, one of the amazing things that I discovered was that once I made the effort to show that I was friendly and genuinely interested in learning a little about the people living in those countries, I no longer felt like a stranger. In fact, I began to make friends with different people, and even though neither of us could speak the language of the other perfectly, we were still able to communicate with one another.
In the same way, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we strive to live our lives according to His laws and His commandments, the world may consider us to be the strangers or the outsiders. But, the good news is that as members of the Church we have been given this promise, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). As members of the Church, we are not strangers or outsiders, but rather we become brothers and sisters. The Apostle Paul expounds on this in his teaching in Romans 8:16-18,
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
A promise was also made of old when God promised Abraham,
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father (Abraham 2:10).
As Bishop Gérald Caussé pointed out in his October 2013 General Conference address, “Though the membership of the Church is increasing in its diversity, our sacred heritage transcends our differences.”
I would also like to point out that although a person may be a member of the Church, it is still quite possible that he or she may at times feel that they really don’t belong, or that they are a stranger or an outsider. That is the reason it becomes the responsibility of each of us to heed the words of the Savior when He taught, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). And so, we must learn to take the focus off of ourselves, and learn to place that focus on serving others. We must be willing to “lift up the hands which hang down, and [steady] the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12).
Bishop Gérald Caussé also pointed out in his address,
|Throughout time the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers or who may be seen as different. In ancient times a stranger benefited from the same obligation of hospitality as a widow or an orphan. Like them, the stranger was in a situation of great vulnerability, and his survival depended on the protection he received from the local population. The people of Israel received precise instructions on this subject: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).
Christ is our Great Exemplar in showing compassion and mercy to those who were considered to be strangers or outcasts in society. Throughout His earthly ministry none were excluded, all were equal recipients of His teachings and ministry. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He cleansed the lepers. He sat and ate with publicans and tax collectors. He caused the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the blind to see. And He even crossed cultural boundaries by asking a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water.
As His followers, we are asked to observe the law of perfect love. The Savior taught,
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:46-48).
If we are faithful and obedient to the Lord’s commands, and live His teachings, there should be no strangers or outcasts among us, only brotherhood and sisterhood. We who are considered strangers and outsiders to the world, should be the very ones who set the example before the world of what true brotherhood and sisterhood is all about. Our daily lives should be guided by the knowledge that,
[We] are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
I mentioned that at times we will all find ourselves in situations where we will be considered the stranger or the outsider, but this is something that we can work together to avoid happening in the Church. When someone new comes to join us here in the sanctuary or in one of our classes, we should make every effort to make them feel comfortable, welcome, and a part of our Ward family. We must make the effort to be the first ones to offer the outstretched hand of friendship. A person may not be known by name at first, but yet, they are known to us as brother and sister.
Let us resolve from this day forward to have no more strangers among us. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.