A Hospitable Heart
Fall season has arrived, and I have decorated my house with touches of autumn colors. The house is filled with the sweet smell of pumpkin spice. To celebrate the start of the season, I have invited friends for dinner, and I want to make sure they feel welcomed and loved. The house is spotless, and the food is going to be delicious. I am looking forward to the conversations and the laughter that I’m pretty sure many of them will cause.
Opening the doors of our homes to others can bring so much joy into our lives. We get to open our hearts and show the love of Christ by serving others. But as much as we might love and treasure these moments, I can’t help but wonder how many times we may have missed extending the invitation to our homes to a stranger. Now, a stranger doesn’t necessarily have to be someone we do not know. That stranger could be someone who we may not have a close relationship with such as a coworker, a neighbor, or even someone from our own church. Those people are not usually the ones found on our guests lists. The reality is, we might become exclusive instead of inclusive and may not necessarily put into practice loving on those who might need it the most. By doing this, we limit ourselves from showing others what it truly means to have a heart like Jesus. He loves the stranger. We must embrace what has been commanded in Leviticus 19:18, which is that we must “Love [our] neighbor and the stranger as [ourselves].” But the reality is that many times we are not necessarily willing to do so.
Welcoming a stranger into our homes could take many forms—making a genuine effort to lend an ear to someone who needs prayer and/or words of encouragement, making them feel loved and accepted is a good example. A few months ago, I had the privilege of ministering at a retreat to a group of about 40 women in Guadalajara, Mexico. They were all strangers to me as well as I was to them. Standing in front of them and sharing the hope found in Jesus was a beautiful experience. I could’ve easily retreated to my room after each session, but I could sense that a few of them wanted to have some one-on-one time with me. I know of many instances in which I have purposedly come up with excuses to avoid these encounters with people I do not know. I thank the Holy Spirit for not letting me pull these women away from me. Instead, He allowed me to open my heart and invite these ladies in. The opportunity to share a spiritual meal with them filled both their hearts and mine.
We have been created and designed to love and to leave footprints in the lives of those we encounter at one point or another in our lives. This calls for a willingness to welcome those who may be different than us or who we don’t have a close relationship with into our circle. It means opening the doors of our hearts to allow others in. In Matthew 25:35, Jesus puts Himself at the level of those who we might consider strangers. His desire is for us not to limit that for what we’ve been called to do within a certain demographic, but rather, to get out of our comfort zone, follow His example of love and acceptance of those who we think are strangers to us. If we take that to heart, it will become second nature to show kindness and God’s love when welcoming not only our own, but those who we will encounter in our path.
The more I ponder on this, the more I am convinced that a hospitable heart is about making room in my heart for unexpected guests. The connections and opportunities to be witnesses of God’s grace could be endless.
Lights, Camera, Action!
When I was in my twenties, I had the opportunity to work on a TV program about the world of tourism. I remember we would spend long hours between script production, planning the locations where we would film, makeup, our wardrobes, and so on. We all worked quickly and diligently to ensure we could deliver content that would leave the viewer wanting to see more in the next episode.
Recently as I was recalling that experience, I reflected on the most important element in that production process to ensure the show reached our audience in their homes: ACTION. Allow me to explain.
We could have had everything ready—lights, equipment, staff, all the knowledge and desire to produce these programs for the public, even the most incredible plans and scripts. But if we didn’t execute, our audience would have been unable to watch the program and never been impacted.
This is also true when offering a helping hand during the times in which we live. The importance of putting our “faith into action”—by helping our communities—brings to my mind the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan. If you recall, this is the story in which a man is assaulted by thieves, beaten, robbed of everything he had, and left badly hurt. A religious leader and another leader who served in the Jewish temple turned a blind eye when passing him on the road where he lay injured. But the good Samaritan (Samaritans were enemies of the Jews) did not hesitate to reach out and help. He went the extra mile—even using his own resources—to ensure his neighbor received the attention and care he needed to get back on his feet.
Each day we have a great opportunity to extend ourselves to help the brokenhearted, the afflicted, the ones who have no sustenance or shelter, the ill. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus to someone who feels downhearted because of their lack of work, poor health, or family problems. When each one of us offers a little grain of sand through our caring actions, we create together a beautiful beach of hope.
But when do we do this? In light of our good friend the Samaritan’s example, the answer is NOW. His sense of urgency and intentionality is our model for assisting others. Now is the time to call or text that friend who needs my words of encouragement and prayer; now is when I need to use my resources to bless my community. I must now volunteer in a food pantry or buy groceries for a family in need . . . and the list goes on. Helping others now who suffer will even lessen my own struggles because it is more blessed to give than to receive (see Acts 20:35).
It is now because yesterday has passed, the future has not yet happened, and all I have is TODAY. The film of my life is being recorded through my ACTION—today. Little by little, step by step, God is bringing to completion the chapters He is writing in His book for you and me. We just must daily appear on the scene, ready to act, without allowing anyone to take away the role God has entrusted to each one of us. We are to live each day as if it’s the last, with a sense of urgency to help others. There is no time to hesitate, as we are God’s fellow workers.
Let me leave you with Jesus’ words on this topic, recorded in Matthew 25:35–40, (NASB):
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”