The biblical record presents
a diverse picture.
- In the story of the Good Samaritan (e.g. Luke 10:24 ff.) and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Jesus sees the traits inside a human being as being the decisive factor – not the fact that they belong to a foreign tribe. Samaritans were generally looked down upon by the Jews – partly because they were not oriented toward Jerusalem. Yet they were relatively close to the Jews in terms of ethnicity, language, culture and religion.
- Even outside of the biblical context, the respectful treatment of guests – even foreign travelers – has always been highly valued in the Orient. However, there also has always been the expectation that guests adapt to the host’s customs. Few Immigrants did not significantly affect the existing society.
- Peter’s encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:28) is an example of encounters with and conversions of Gentiles. Here again, what mattered was the person’s spiritual core – not their position or religion. However, this does not suggest an insignificance of the cultures or countries of the Jews and Romans, for instance, or the Jews and Samaritans (see above), or Jews and Greeks (as seen elsewhere).
- The commission that was given to the disciples to "teach all nations..." (Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47) and to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation..." (Mk. 16:15) does not automatically indicate – particularly not in Matthew – that the nations’ previous cultures were to be ignored, as was often practiced in earlier Christian missionary work. Indeed, the previous cultures are to be taken seriously. Religion can only be taught in a sensitive and liberal way if the objective is to bring about true faith in God.
This provides perspectives for individual behavior, but – as is the case with Bible passages on other topics, such as the Sermon on the Mount – it does not offer specific political instructions for the present day.
Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologiae I–II, Q.105, art. 3, 13th century), in keeping with the old Jewish tradition, distinguished between foreigners who had a peaceful or a hostile relationship toward the people of the country to which they had migrated. Specifically, he distinguished between hostile foreigners who were not accepted at all; peaceful travelers who were not to be oppressed; foreigners who arrived peacefully with intent to remain in the country for a time, who, according to Exodus 22:20, also were not to be oppressed or harassed; and other foreigners who, after a long period of integration, were fully received into the national life and religious rites of the country.
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