Kindness to Strangers


1.  *Discussion* Sir Walter Scott begins his novel Quentin Durward with the following Scottish quote: “Better kind fremit, than fremit kindred.”  [“Better kind strangers than estranged family.”]  What does this quote mean?  Is it true?

Main Points (Choose ONE)

1. “Kindness” means treating someone like family (the way that family members ought to treat each other, anyway).

2. Cultivate empathy to grow in kindness.

3. In light of how God treats us, we’re accountable for how we treat others.


Leviticus 19:18, 33 – “Love your neighbor as yourself.  I am God….  When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him.  Treat the foreigner the same as a native.  Love him like one of your own.  Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt.  I am God, your God.” (The Message)


1.  “Kindness” means treating someone like family (the way that family members ought to treat each other, anyway).

a.  In Scripture, the word “kindness” is often in conjunction with the word “faithfulness.”

*The words were both used with a special sense in ancient agreements (treaties, contracts, oaths, etc.)

*  They’re both ‘covenantal’ words: that is, they refer to something sort of like a contract or a treaty, only stronger.

* “Faithfulness” means that you refuse to abandon this special agreement; “kindness” means that you think of it as more than just a contract.

b.  Think of the special relationship between two people that’s implied by marriage or by a blood oath.

2.  Two people bind themselves together            .

3.  It’s as if one person adopts the other person into his or her family, offering all the loyalty, benefits, and protections that one family member can give another.

* With this sort of background, “kindness” is how you treat someone who’s been adopted into your family.

* Verse 33 says, then, that we shouldn’t treat strangers like outsiders to be shunned, but rather like family members.

1.  Welcome them with open arms.

2.  Look for ways to make them comfortable.

b. This sense of “kindness” is also captured in verse 18: “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

* You’re looking out for their best interests.

* You genuinely care about what matters to them.

* You’re always there for them

* It’s not a matter of what they do for you, but who you are to them.

c.  Kindness is treating a stranger as if he or she were “one of your own.” (Verse 33)

* Does this statement mean that kindness is more than just being nice?

How would treating someone “like one of your own” go beyond mere nicenes

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the kind of welcome and helpfulness that this sort of kindness entails?

2.  Cultivate empathy to grow in kindness.

a.  “Empathy” is being able to see things—and feel things—from another person’s perspective.

b.  Verse 33 reminds them to “remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt.”

* It’s referring to a period in the history of this ethnic group when they had to leave their homeland in order to flee a famine.

1.   They were dependent upon the kindness of the Egyptians.

2. Eventually, they became slaves and had to live in a ghetto.

* Their own experiences with being a stranger/foreigner were supposed to motivate them to help other strangers/foreigners.

1.  We understand their needs.

2.  We know how they feel

* Ironically, sometimes when we have a bad experience as a stranger it makes us less inclined to help others in a similar situation.

1.  Why in the world would that be?  It makes no sense.

2.  It’s only stubbornness and bitterness that would harden us like that.

3.  Empathy, however, requires not being blinded or hardened to the needs of others.  That’s why it results in kindness.

The more we know about a situation, the more likely we are to get involved.

* That’s why charity organizations use pictures of horrendous natural disasters and stories from survivors: they motivate us to do something.

* If you want to cultivate empathy, start by learning.

1. Harold Carpenter, missionary: “Knowledge grows a burden.”

2. You can’t help effectively if you have no idea what’s needed.

*  Sometimes we refuse to pay attention to these sorts of news stories—because we’ve already decided (selfishly?) that we don’t want to get involved.

* It’s easier to ignore if we stay ignorant.

* Is this any real sort of solution?

4. In light of how God treats us, we’re accountable for how we treat others.

a. All through chapter 19, God repeats the reminder “I am God” while he instructs them on how to treat each other.  Why?

* He might be warning them the way a parent warns squabbling siblings: “I have my eye on you!”

* That doesn’t quite fit with the emphasis on treating each other nicely, though, since God would be treating us rather rudely.

* More likely, God is reminding them of how he has treated them.

1.  He helped them when they were slaves (see above, in point 2).

2. He gave them an identity when they were wandering aimlessly.

3. He adopted them as his people and promised never to abandon them.

b.  The reason they were supposed to treat each other with patience, with generosity, and with warmth—with kindness—is because God did the exact same thing with them.

c.  If we treat each other with suspicion, rudeness, or intolerance, we’re spitting in God’s face (metaphorically).

* We’re acting as if we’re better than God, as if his rules don’t apply to us.

* We’ve been given a tremendous gift of forgiveness, but we’re stubbornly ignoring the wishes of the person who gave us that gift.

Human Struggles

1.  We’re so focused on our own needs that we can’t even see the needs of others.

2.  We’re satisfied with the size of our circle of friends as it is, so we don’t want to reach out to anyone else.

3.  We somehow think that God owes us good treatment, but we don’t feel that we owe anyone else anything.

Application Helps

1.  Think about how you can show kindness at the following times or to the following people:

a.  Last Call and Free Food Friday

b. Neighbors across the hall/next door

c.  International students

2.  Claiming, “I don’t even know them” is never a good excuse for not helping.

3.  Being nice and showing a smile isn’t the same thing as really being kind.