“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for… I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:34 -35
Every once in a while, I seem to run across the same message over and over again. For whatever reason, the Holy Spirit must think I need to be reminded of something, and so She puts it before me again and again over the course of a few days until I finally get the message! Over the past week or so the message has been one about welcome and hospitality. A post I came across on Facebook – twice – posted by two different people. A word from another pastor shared at an online conference. A conversation with a church member. All have worked to draw my attention once again to the idea of welcome and hospitality, and our call as Christians to work to live into these things with the help of the Spirit.
Now, I know that we all know that welcoming people and being hospitable are important characteristics of ourselves as a Christian community – and in general we are very friendly people. But if you are like me, maybe we all need to be reminded again.
Scripture is fairly clear about how to approach (and welcome!) strangers. Abraham extends generous hospitality to the three strangers at Mamre (Genesis 18). God reminds the Israelites that they are to love the strangers, because they were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19). Psalm 146 speaks of God watching over the strangers. And Jesus says that those who welcomed strangers will inherit the kingdom because they were really welcoming him (Matthew 25:34-35). So we know that God cares about what happens to those considered strangers, outsiders, foreigners, and newcomers.
So what? What does this mean for me as someone who also wants to care about these people. What would it look like if I looked first for unfamiliar faces on a Sunday morning instead of seeking out my friends? What would it look like to create space for someone new in the groups I am a part of? What kind of impact might it have if I were to ask and listen more, and talk less? What might result from inviting someone new to join me for coffee, or lunch, or just to sit and chat? How can I work to do these things even when someone looks different from me, dresses differently from me, speaks a different language than I do, or is in a different stage of life than I am?
What would it look like if we all asked ourselves these questions and then let the Holy Spirit do Her holy work?