National culture, personal safety, identity, social standing and upbringing can all easily become idols which shape our opinions and views of others. Judging others by these things will only highlight the differences between us, making us feel either fearful or superior towards them. But we no longer belong to the standards of this world.
Now, as heavenly citizens, we have the culture of Christ instead. This new culture should be what drives our thinking and perspectives, replacing the native cultures we may have been born into. This is especially important when it feels like our natural instincts are making us hide away from others. In Christ we shouldn’t be held back by our culture or personal perspective. Neither should we view strangers with fear, mistrust or discomfort. We need to see them as Christ does. Jesus gave up His life in order to make strangers and enemies the very family of God. This is the reason we welcome strangers. We should want them also to enter the safety of God’s home. If we can see people through God’s eyes, putting aside our own preferences, we will want to give the lost and hurting real hope and friendship.
Are we ready to let this be what defines us and our relationships?
In any given town or city there will be ethnic minority groups, the homeless, the lonely, the frail, the cut off, refugees and many other ‘strangers’ who we often don’t give a second thought to. What about the people in our church who we see every week but have never spoken to? They too are ‘strangers’ to us. We need to remember that we have God’s Spirit within us; and He is full of concern and love for these people. If we do not share this concern we need to ask ourselves why. It is important that we talk to God honestly about our fears or discomfort so that He can help us change and remove whatever barriers we have.
The book of Hebrews reminds us that we are receiving a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (12:28) and then goes on to remind us to show “hospitality to strangers”, amongst other commands (13:2). Because we are constantly getting closer to that kingdom, showing biblical hospitality is essential. But this isn’t just about inviting friends over for Sunday lunch.
In Bible times, due to the lack of housing, travellers and strangers were often invited to stay in people’s homes. The hosts would provide food and a comfortable place to sleep, along with safety and protection from harm.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we should open our front doors wide and allow anyone and everyone into our homes for as long as they want (although, of course, for some of us this may well be a way we can serve). But it does mean that we should be willing to open our lives to the people God puts in our path, so they too can see this approaching kingdom and home that cannot be stolen, lost or “shaken”.
Are we willing to open our lives to any strangers God brings to us, sharing God’s home and love with them? Or are we only prepared to see them as a threat?