The quality of hospitality was highly prized in Jesus’ time. People had to depend on the hospitality of a stranger when they needed to travel, as there were no Holiday Inns or Expedia services that made finding accommodations easy. From Abraham, who taught us that sometimes we entertain angels unaware, to the admonition to church leaders in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, hospitality has been viewed as an attribute of God and thus a practice that all God-followers should embrace.
Do you know somebody who is especially adept at making others feel welcome in their home? Are you that kind of person?
I have a sister-in-law who is gifted this way. She has hosted several of the family bridal and baby showers, and each time she manages to completely anticipate her guests’ every need. It is a pleasure to see how her days of intense preparation come together. Heirloom dishes are beautifully laid out with homemade delicacies, tables are dressed with festive tablecloths and napkins, desserts and drinks are separated to accommodate traffic flow, and comfortable seating is ready to receive weary travelers. She has a heart for her guests that expresses itself in a well-organized and festive celebration. Everyone who walks through her door feels welcomed and loved.
When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Matthew 10 (The Message)
40 Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. And anyone who welcomes me also welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who welcomes a prophet, just because that person is a prophet, will be given the same reward as a prophet. Anyone who welcomes a good person, just because that person is good, will be given the same reward as a good person.
This passage says it all. Anyone who welcomes another welcomes the Lord. And in so doing, they welcome God. Welcoming others in the name of Jesus is like opening your door to Jesus and inviting him in to “set a spell” with a glass of cold ice tea and a slice of hummingbird cake.
And Jesus takes it one step farther:
42 And anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will surely be rewarded.
Here we are instructed to go one step beyond normal hospitality and extend ourselves to people in need. Jesus’ most humble followers need what we can provide: cold water, warm food, dry accommodations, and most importantly, compassion.
The pandemic has forced many people to close their businesses and has rendered a large part of our workforce food-insecure. More and more people are becoming shelter-insecure. And we still have a way to go.
Where is God calling you to extend your hospitality beyond your family and friends and welcome the stranger?
Check with your local food bank and see where the needs are. People in your community need a cup of cold water that demonstrates the love, compassion, and hope of Jesus himself.
And when you serve the least of them, you have served Christ.