Text: Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 25:31-46
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
- Matthew 25:40, ESV
When I think of the word “hospitality,” I think of my people gathered around an old wooden table, seated under giant oak trees strung with twinkly lights. We’re all passing around teeming bowls of beautiful salad and piling bread high on our plates. There are throngs of children running around, giggling as they catch fireflies in mason jars.
Compared with this idyllic image, the kind of hospitality I see Jesus asking of us seems small, dirty, and difficult. It feels messy and dangerous and ill-advised. It’s the opposite of everything I learned about hospitality in my suburban upbringing. I learned how to set a proper table, how to make centerpieces, and how to chew with my mouth closed. But, if I’m honest, it looks like Scripture is calling me far from my manners and my Pinterest-perfect recipes into the depths of another person’s difficulty.
The least of these are those at the very bottom of the pile. They are the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, the utterly forgotten. They are those who are highly needy and who have not a lot to offer in return. And sometimes, they are us. In Matthew 25, we are told that when we love and serve the widows, the orphans, the poor and hurting, we are loving and serving Jesus Himself. On the flipside, when we forget or ignore those in need, we are forgetting and ignoring Christ. We need to open our eyes to the ways we’ve slighted those in need.
In Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen says, “The movement from hostility to hospitality is hard and full of difficulties.” It is a hard road to love people in the middle of their difficult circumstances and heartache. The very act of caring for others will drive us to the Good News that we are able to do nothing without His strength. But friends, let’s remember this:
When we reach out and create a place to love, we are living the Gospel. We are seeking out those who are far off, those who are broken and alienated. We are finding a way to bring them into the fold and lavish them with love, mirroring the way God made a way for us when we had nothing to offer Him (and though ultimately we still have nothing to offer Him!).
“Although many, we might even say most, strangers in this world become easily the victim of a fearful hostility, it is possible for men and women and obligatory for Christians to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.”
– Henri Nouwen
Providing space for strangers to “cast off their strangeness” — this is hospitality for the least of these. We meet each other in our humanity, drawing strength and comfort from God. We allow one another to be broken, but always point to the One who makes us whole.