Social justice and care for the aliens

Last week I attended the inaugural Trinity Lectures at TTC, featuring Prof. Hugh Williamson from Oxford lecturing on the theme of social justice in the Old Testament. The Trinity Lectures will be held bi-annually and the next lecture will be presented by Richard Bauckham (how cool is that huh).

Anyway, Prof. Williamson sketched how the care for the poor and the widow became a catchphrase for social justice in the Ancient Near East. Not that it fully exhausted the scope of social justice, but the poor and the widow represented the underclass in the society, of which the care for them represented the degree of upheld justice in respective societies. Interestingly, Williamson added, there is a third element in the Hebrew literature, which is the care for aliens. Of course, it is somehow expected and fits the Exodus narrative. The Israelites were once aliens in Egypt and thus they must show hospitality for the aliens to remember and respect their origin. This is unique and unprecedented elsewhere.

And it really explains the contrast between Abraham and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18-19). Abraham welcomed the three strangers who came to his house and showed enormous hospitality to them. Abraham is, indeed, an Israelite par excellence. On the other hand, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah not only didn’t welcome the strangers who sought refuge in Lot’s house, but they wanted to sexually assault them. The point, then, is not “homosexuality” per se, but that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t do what was just to these strangers. This is the problem of social (in)justice. Thus, the demonizing of homosexuals is actually worse than the supposedly sin that is condemned, as by doing so, we don’t do what the Lord requires of us — to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. (Mic 6.8)

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