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.