We are called to hospitality. (I Peter 4:9; Hebrews 13:2; Matthew 25:31-46). This includes not only our spiritual family but even strangers. How can we practice hospitality in the 21st century to strangers? I suggest a minimal first step: see people and greet them with a welcome.
Is that enough? My conscience tells me it is not, but as a practical matter, I must begin somewhere. I feel that I need to invite people into my home. Maybe I need to find someone in need and give them a place to sleep. The Biblical call to hospitality is one that nips at my assurance that I am doing all that Jesus could reasonably expect me to be doing. What if he's asking more of me? I think he is.
Yet there are people all around me who could use a gesture of hospitality, a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42). My doctor speaks with an African accent. I heard a Spanish speaker on my last trip out of the house. At the library, I hear a verbal goulash. I must admit I'm frightened to do this, especially in this day when attempts at conversation are so easily misunderstood, but next time I hear a “foreign accent” I want to say to the speaker “I mean no offense, but it sounds to me like you might not have grown up around here. If so, I just want to say 'welcome, we're glad you're here.'”
I recognize that I may be misunderstood. I'm willing to risk that with little concern. I recognize that I might offend. That bothers me, and I will carefully monitor the reactions I get. I also recognize that some who read this post might find it challenging or even offensive to give a blanket “welcome” to people without knowing their background. To those especially, I understand but ask you to read on for my rationale to consider if you find it helpful.
I do not believe that my posture toward the lost should change with where I'm standing at the time. In other words, I am an ambassador for Christ 24/7/365. I am certainly convinced that if someone comes to our assembly, I shouldn't be checking for green cards or visas any more than I should be checking out their sartorial splendor. (James 2:1-9) Therefore, without caveat, I say to anyone who enters our assembly to worship God “Welcome! We're glad you're here!”
In my view, my responsibility toward the lost does not change once I leave the confines of our building. I still want to speak a word of welcome to the stranger. In neither situation am I condoning or even inquiring into how someone came to be here; I am only welcoming the human being created in the image of God who stands before me. Remembering that I am an exile here, and feeling pushed more and more to the margins, it's imperative for me to welcome the otherwise marginalized.
One final thing of import to those who have an ear to hear, I awoke two nights ago with the phrase “welcome, we're glad you're here” ringing in my ears. It did not seem connected to my dream. It seemed to intrude. The phrase has stayed heavy on my mind for the last couple of days, and I have not been able to figure out why. This is my tentative understanding. Could it be a prompt from the Holy Spirit that I am not at liberty to ignore? I think it might be, so I'm acting upon that prompt. May God lead all of us into his mission. If this way does not seem appropriate to you, pray that God will reveal a way to you that you may show hospitality to strangers so you can share the gospel of Jesus with them.