Do you want to be more like Jesus? Part of being more like Jesus means extending the same treatment, the same hospitality to the ‘alien’, the stranger and the outcast that Jesus would extend towards them. That’s a big challenge when you realise how Jesus treated them! (If you don’t know, have a rummage through the Gospel of John Chapter 9 or take a look at Luke 4:18-19)
Some of the religious leaders of the time were scandalised by Jesus and pointed to their books of rules saying ‘this is not how it should be done.’ I wonder whether we ever get so hung up on dotting every doctrinal ‘i’ and crossing every religious ’t’ that we actually miss out on becoming more like Jesus…and miss out on the whole point of what it means to be church?
When we look at people, do we see them simply as they are and have been, or do we see them with the eyes of Christ…..as those to whom Jesus offers a hope and a future?
I’ve always been interested in words, what they mean and where they come from. One of the words I looked up a while ago was “hostility.” I found out that the Latin root of that word is hostis which means “enemy.” Our Christian task is to turn the stranger (the hostis) who is perceived as an enemy into a hospes, which is the Latin word for “guest” (and from which our English word “hospitality” is derived.)
Our Christian task it to turn the hostis into a hospes….the stranger into a guest.
Biblical hospitality doesn’t just mean sharing food with someone…though food is definitely good. I like food.
Rather, Biblical hospitality involves an enounter with God as we encounter the stranger.
I have had the privilege of meeting a very wide range of people through my work life ….whether they be homeless people, prostitutes, addicts, refugees, younger people, older people, poorer people, richer people, people with disabilities, gay people, people of other nationalities, cultures and faiths. I have grown so much through people who are not like me…..through “the other!” What’s more, I have found that I don’t necessarily have to condone their actions or beliefs in order to learn from them.
In fact, I think that the stranger can be sent by God to open up new windows in our thinking that help move us towards a greater wholeness as human beings. Maybe God wants to challenge our perceptions…perhaps he wants us to grow in grace ? Maybe He wants to lead us to prayerful intercession? Maybe it is something else?
Just a final thought….for years the church has prayed for chances to evangelise and disciple the nations. For years God’s response has been to send people overseas to do just that. Today, that prayer is being answered in a new way….
the nations are coming to us. What a massive God given Gospel opportunity!
One that should certainly affect our church prayer life!
So….how can we become a people who look for the image of God in one another; people who look for what they can affirm in one another, not what they can disagree on or tear down; people who seek to offer the stranger and outcast a hope and future because of Jesus Christ?
How can we become people who turn the hostis into the hospes…the enemy to the guest?
How can we become a people who in welcoming the stranger, find that we just might have a fresh encounter with the risen Lord Jesus? – An encounter that will help us become more like Jesus.
And we do want to become more like Jesus don’t we?
*Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net