Love of Strangers

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Rom. 12:13

We’ve heard it before.  Seek to be Mary, not Martha. Don’t worry about “entertaining,” instead have people over and eat pizza on paper plates in the middle of a messy house. Don’t worry about all the details. Just open your home, love and feed people.

As I have researched the topic of hospitality this week, like Laura, I discovered the biblical definition to be the “love of strangers.”  This surprises me because it has little to do with what comes to mind when I think about hospitality. Maybe it is time to broaden our definition and think less about who we need to have over for dinner and more about how to practice loving those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

A few years ago my husband and I decided to go out to breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was in the middle of winter and we were experiencing rare record-breaking cold temperatures. We pulled up to the restaurant and both noticed a homeless man shivering outside the entrance. My husband and I approached the restaurant and looked at him and we both knew. We needed to invite him in to eat with us. There is no telling how long it had been since he had eaten or showered or slept.

He accepted our invitation and we sat down. My husband and I really didn’t know how to approach the situation except to ask him what he would like to eat. He mumbled something we didn’t understand so we decided to order him a big breakfast. We tried to interact with him but he didn’t seem to understand our questions. It appeared that he perhaps had mental illness or just had not been engaged in a long time. We spent the rest of the time eating in silence wondering about his story.

I want to be clear. We didn’t do anything special that day. The Lord put that man right in front of us and there wasn’t a question about what we needed to do. A couple of things happened also that had a profound effect on my husband and me. While the homeless man was in the bathroom a gentleman came over to our table and told us that his wife had not stopped weeping since she saw us invite the man into eat with us. He thanked us for our act of kindness and then he walked away. Also, when we went to pay, the waitress told us that a patron at the restaurant had already paid our bill. What a blessing to see the far-reaching impact of just a few moments with a stranger! We were also able to go home and come back to meet the man at the restaurant to pass on a few items of clothing he desperately needed. We gave him bus fare to take to the homeless shelter downtown and as we drove away, we saw him waiting at the bus stop.

Who is the “stranger” God has placed right in front of you to love? Maybe it is the sweet lady at the dry cleaner you found out lost her son to suicide recently (that happened to me not long ago). Maybe it is your widowed neighbor you don’t know very well. Or maybe it is the person sitting next to you at the oil change place who seems distressed. Loving strangers may help us to practice hospitality in a different kind of way.  ~ Courtney

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