Who Is a Stranger?

A stranger is someone who wants to learn. (Secrets of Heaven 4958)

I was a stranger and you took Me in. (Matthew 25:35)

A stranger is someone from another place—a visitor, newcomer, foreigner, immigrant, wanderer, traveler. “Took in” translates the Greek synagogete, “gathered together.” It is the same word used by the Lord when He says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)  It is the origin of our word “synagogue,” a “gathering.” So it means “I was a stranger and you brought me together with others, into your community or your synagogue.” A stranger or immigrant spiritually is not simply one who wants to be instructed, but one who wants to learn the principles and practices of the church in order to become part of the church community.  It is usually someone who is not at home in their former church or community and is looking for a new community.  We can understand better the needs of a church newcomer or anyone who is looking for connection and community if we consider what kind of instruction an immigrant to any community needs:  Directions to stores or a library, recommendations for doctors and mechanics, learning names, perhaps learning the language, learning the history and traditions of the new community, etc. People new to a church group also need to get to know people and connect with them, to learn the language and traditions of the community.  They need simple, introductory truths, such as the Commandments (Ten, Two and Five), the Lord’s prayer, and stories from the Word, from heaven, and from the lives of the people in the community.

Migrating means receiving instruction…because migrating and passing on, or moving from one place to another, is in heaven nothing else than a change of state. (Secrets of Heaven 1463)

The states of good and truth in which spirits dwell are determined by the communities they are in, for as shown already, all thought flows in through others, doing so most immediately through those in whose community they are at the time. When therefore they are removed from one community and sent into another the states of their thoughts and affections are changed, and so therefore are the states of truth and good in which they dwell. If however they are sent into communities unlike themselves they take no delight in it, and consequently feel coerced; and therefore they are separated from them and taken to communities which are like themselves. This explains why the evil are unable to be present in and to stay among communities of the good, or the good to do so among communities of the evil, and also why all spirits and angels are distinguished into separate communities in accordance with those affections that belong to love.  (Secrets of Heaven 4111:3)

As is the good present with a person, so is the community of angels present with him; and as is the evil present with a person, so is the community of evil spirits present with him. A person chooses certain communities for himself, that is, he places himself within one of these; for like is brought into association with like…. And as he allows himself to be led to good which is more interior and more perfect, so he is conveyed to more interior and more perfect angelic communities. His changes of state are nothing else than changes of communities. (Secrets of Heaven 4067)

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow. (Psalm 146:9)

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. (Hebrews 13:2)

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. (Numbers 15:14-16)

So Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts.” (Genesis 18:2-5—This example of welcoming these strangers stands in stark contrast to the behavior of the men of Sodom in the next chapter.)

Immigrants staying with them means not only those who received instruction in the Church’s truth and good and accepted them, but also those who led lives in keeping with them. (Secrets of Heaven 8007)

The meaning of an immigrant is one who receives instruction in the Church’s truths and forms of good and accepts them,…thus one who was not born within the Church but still joins it. (Secrets of Heaven 7908)

With regard to immigrants, the people were commanded several times in the Word not to make any distinction between the native of the land and the immigrant staying with them. The reason why was that gentile nations from whom immigrants came are just as much received into heaven as those within the Church are, after they have received instruction in and accepted the truths of faith. (Secrets of Heaven 8013.3)