Making Room: A Study of Biblical Hospitality: Day 9

Making Room for the Stranger

by

Today's Text: Leviticus 19:34, Ruth 2:5-12, Matthew 25:35-36, John 4:1-26, Acts 16:6-10

Text: Leviticus 19:34, Ruth 2:5-12, Matthew 25:35-36, John 4:1-26, Acts 16:6-10

My husband and I moved into a new house last summer—a new house to us. In fact, it is a very old house, full of drafty windows and narrow stairs, but all those quirks were glossed over with stainless steel appliances, fresh paint, and marble counters. For us, part of the appeal was extra space to share, but we had no idea how quickly the need would arise.  

We hadn’t finished unpacking when we learned that a missionary family from Spain needed a place to live for a month. Not knowing who they were or how much English they spoke, we agreed, then hurried to set up a bed and buy some extra towels for the guest bathroom.

The couple arrived a few days later with their eighteen-month-old son, who had bright blonde hair and a gap-toothed grin. I had only a few semesters of high school Spanish under my belt, but after a few days had passed, through smiles and hugs and several ‘gracias,’ Rebecca and I had become fast friends. We communicated with a mix of Spanglish and charades, soon sharing some of our deepest heartaches and joys, even though we only had the vocabulary of kindergarteners. It’s amazing the connection God can forge between strangers.

I love that we serve a God who shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11). In a society where women were ostracized, Jesus frequently addressed women directly, talking to them about their most intimate fears and sin. He had no concern for His own reputation. He saw no difference between rich and poor, able-bodied and lame. Jesus made room for everyone.

Is it possible that there is no such thing as a stranger? Is it possible that all the borders we draw are invisible? Is it possible that the lines of language and skin color and difference are passing away? (1 John 2:17).

It was fun and exciting to welcome a family from Spain into our home. But as I read these verses of Scripture, I’m struck by how much harder it is for me to welcome in those “close” strangers who are a regular part of my life. The sister-in-law who doesn’t quite fit in. The mother who doesn’t live up to my needs or expectations. Sometimes emotional boundary lines are harder to cross than oceans.

But God is with us as we welcome those strangers, too. He blesses our feeble efforts. He is with us when our patience wears out. He repairs the damage of lost years, and He quiets us with His love.

As Christians, it’s easy to want to isolate ourselves away from the world. But God has shown us that this world is not our home. We, too, are foreigners in a strange land, living here only for a short while before passing on to our permanent address with the Lord.

We, of all people, can afford to open our homes to the stranger, the ostracized, the lowly. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). SRT-John-instagram9s-new

Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

  • My husband and I were on the receiving end of this experience several years ago when we moved to Pittsburgh from NC, to be there for just one year for my husband’s job. A group of four other young married couples immediately welcomed us into their circle and church family. I was initially connected through a mutual friend, but other than that, they didn’t know us at all. We had an instant group of believing friends in a very unfamiliar place. They welcomed us into all aspects of their lives – weekend get togethers, celebrating milestones, Bible studies and the mundane everyday. I am still amazed when I look back on this time and see all they did for us knowing we would only be there for one year. Too often I think about the return I will get on my investment in others and am not doing it purely to show Christ’s love.

  • Let’s pray that we can love EVERYONE like Jesus did. He is our model for graciousness, compassion and being a servant to all. Love this reminder that Jesus loved and welcomed all no matter the sin or status.

  • I love the passage in John – “I who speak to you am he.” He speaks to all of us. We have a relationship with Christ. That is so powerful. It gives such confidence as we go out and share he love he’s already given us with others. We are so full in this hope and steady relationship that we have so much joy to share with others!!

  • Christine

    We are all strangers, we are all immigrants or descendents of. We have been welcomed and included by others and God. Let us go and do the same. Include, reach out, enjoy each other.

    • Kensley Goodman

      I agree with this so much. There was a time in all of our lives where we were a stranger. Being the new kid at school or the new family at church. God always sends someone our way to make us feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place. We should return the blessing and reach out to the strangers around us.

  • When I read God’s commands to the nation of Israel, I view that more as a parallel to us as Christians (God’s chosen people). Not to the United States. If ANYONE comes into our churches, they should be welcomed with the love of Christ, no matter if they are a refugee, illegal immigrant, etc. That is not the same as letting anyone and everyone come in to the country, no questions asked. All countries have laws and laws should be obeyed.

  • Alexandria

    Thinking of ourselves as foreigners just spoke so clearly to me – we are only here for a millisecond of our eternity with Christ

  • “We, of all people, can afford to open our homes to the stranger, the ostracized, the lowly.” I’m guilty of wondering “what can I do, I’m one person” or “we’re a busy family, can’t do much.” I’m praying today that God would open all of our eyes to the ways we can help using what we have, where we are, to be hospitality in a hostile world. Be with us, Jesus.

  • What stuck me was Acts 16:6-10
    “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down lto Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

    They listened closely to the Holy Spirit. They didn’t go before God with expectation that God would bless them. No, the went where God was moving. It reminds me of what Jesus says in John 12:26 “Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”
    There are so many needs and so many hurting people….where is God calling each of as individuals to serve? May we be willing to listen to His still small voice above our feelings and the shouts of others.

  • We were strangers. God welcomed us.

  • I think that this is very pertinent to what’s happening right now regarding the Travel Ban on Muslims. God loved EVERYONE How can we ever expect to Share The Love of Jesus and God Our Father by Discrimination?! Pray for our new POTUS’s heart, that it will be softened, that he will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and have a New concern and Awareness of Gods Perfect Plan to bring love to ALL HIS children so that they might know HIM

    • Pat

      The ban is on in order to keep Americans safe. We are a land of laws and these laws need to be inforced. Immigrants need to be vetted upon entry. We can welcome immigrants, but on the other hand, we have to make sure they are not here to do us harm. Think about Kates Law. How would people feel if it was their child who was murdered senselessly by one of these people. Think about why we lock our doors at night. Immigration needs to be done the correct way and if I was a immigant who come in the legal way and now see all the illegals taking and getting things for free, I would be very upset about that fact. I think God gave us this county and we must protect it just as we do our own families.

      • Kylee

        “These people” are not all criminals, my friend. Many are seeking a better life for their families, much like I’m sure your ancestors did, and it is nearly impossible to do so legally with our current system in place. Ask me how I know about this ;)

  • Keri McCue

    “I’m struck by how much harder it is for me to welcome in those “close” strangers who are a regular part of my life.” This is such a powerful statement. To me, this brings to mind that sometimes we can be so “mission minded” that we forget about the people we interact with daily that need Christ’s love as well.

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

    • Kylee

      Amen Keri, it’s so hard to love the strangers in our immediate circle — I’ve both had and BEEN the mother that doesn’t meet the emotional needs, so today’s reading was definitely a CTA to love my mother a little better, and give myself some grace!

  • Jane Elisabeth

    I don’t want to get political, this is entirely our of curiosity. Is anyone thinking of the refugee issue in America during the past couple days of this study? I personally am a conservative and like to think I’m becoming more and more faithful. I’m also developing a deeper understanding and appreciation for God’s Word… but I’m having an incredibly hard time wrapping my mind around the refugee “ban.” The Bible is so crystal clear, everyone is a foreigner. I just don’t know what to make of it.

    • Misty

      I am extremely, extremely NOT conservative and very politically active. I just started She Reads Truth with this study, as I try to spend more time with the Word and structure it into my everyday. Yes, I agree the Bible is very clear as it relates to this situation. I feel so sad when people try to deny that for the sake of making sure they are on “their” political side. Truth is truth. I am relieved that those identifying as conservative can acknowledge that. ❤❤❤

    • Sandy

      I feel similarly, and so my Action Planis to Privately PRAY for all who have authority to resolve this issue – That they will hear God’s quiet Holy Spirit voice and soften their heart S, bring about change that follows the Intent of The Great Commission that Gods Story of Salvation will be shared with all who arrive during this ‘stay against THE BAN’, and even if it’s only one heart that receives and Accepts the offer of Gods Salvation- a New Soul added to The Family of God. God is MOST POWERFUL and hears all our prayers. He IS in Control and for this S I Am Grateful.

    • Ali

      This is a really hard topic in life for me. I’m not one bit knowledgeable on all things politics! I guess I struggle feeling as though a ban is wrong as I read scripture but how do we as a country protect ourselves? So because I’m a Christian and God’s word tells me to love strangers I should leave my home unlocked and allow anyone to enter? I shouldn’t take protective measures for my family? Again, I don’t know all about what has been put in place when it comes to the current political situation but I would like to believe that they have more knowledge and understanding on the situation than I do and so therefore all I can do is pray and believe that God will provide a way for those who truly need. This is tough…

      • Jerry Morrison

        Maybe I will have a different perspective if I ever have children, even though I’m not sure I should, but the Bible says “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is quite opposite of how my flesh feels most days. Nevertheless, this is the reality of the Christ we follow. Going the extra mile, offering the other cheek, giving our shirt to somone who wants our jacket (matt 5:38-40). If in Christ all of our tomorrows are secure then we can radically love and serve our neighbors today. For Jesus radical meant to death on the cross. We lose a lot when we try to make Christianity any easier than that.

      • Amanda

        I feel the same way. While we are called to love everyone, even strangers, I don’t think Christ is calling us to forego wisdom. He actually says we should be as innocent as doves and cunning as serpents. Think about the Samaritan man who helped the man on the side of the road. Did he bring him into his home and possibly endanger his family? No, he cleaned him up, made sure he had everything he needed, including a place to stay, and paid for the innkeeper to care for him.
        Yes, as Christians we should help those in need, but I believe even the Bible makes the distinction between Christian duty and the duty of the lawmakers to protect their people and land. As a Christian I want to find ways to help the refugees, but I also want to trust that the leaders of our country will keep us safe (preventing incidences like what happened in Germany).

        • Jennifer Jones

          Thank you for this decisive response! I feel the same way but have had trouble articulating. And the example of the Good Samaritan is great!

      • Kaylan Williams

        My thoughts on it are that the United States already had protective barriers; this country of ours was already incredibly hard to enter as an immigrant or as a refugee, because of all the security checks, tests, etc. I lean more to trusting these check points as our protective measures and I see a complete ban as stereotyping an entire group of people that need help. I can’t reconcile the ban with my knowledge of Jesus’ heart so I’m praying as well that it will be lifted/ changed soon. I also found a website through Ann Voskamp called wewelcomerefugees.com and was able to sign a petition and send a quick message to my local representative. It was great to see all the comments on the issue, all the Jesus love <3 <3 Prayers for blessing over your lives!

    • Laura

      I think I can relate to how you’re feeling as well. I’ve been struggling through this study, because my heart aches for the refugees seeking help and comfort, but I am conservative leaning and don’t quite know how to reconcile my feelings with POTUS’ rulings and what our faith tells us. I think the way the travel ban was rolled out was incredibly stupid and poorly managed, but I understand the intent behind it. In my mind, I believe strongly that Jesus called us to be compassionate but he did not call us to be stupid. We should certainly care for those who need it, but I don’t believe we’re being instructed to let in individuals who wish harm on our country. Thankfully I’m not a politician who has to figure out how to execute the rulings on how people can safely enter our country, and I pray for those who are in control of the situation to be guided by the Holy Spirit and make the choices that Jesus would want.

      I also think that we often times let our emotions get the best of us. When we see the images of war-torn Middle East and the refugees seeking asylum, how can your heart not go out to those people? But do we react the same way when we see people in our own community struggling – whether it is single parents, neighborhoods of lower incomes, or coworkers with family problems? The problems of our neighbors are certainly first-world issues compared to what is happening overseas, but they are struggles nonetheless. The images of the problems we see day-to-day aren’t as heart-wrenching, but our immediate neighbors need help just as much as others. A lot of what Jesus preaches about is taking care of your neighbors. I am trying to focus on how I can pray for and serve those immediately around me and show the love of Jesus to the people I encounter daily, regardless of their nationality. I CAN control that situation, not the one going on with our government.

  • Oh how I am loving this study and God’s timing of it all! Thank you Jesus and thank you SRT! I appreciate the writing prompts in the book that help my brain and heart process the scripture on a deeper level. :-)

  • This could probably go better with the study on welcoming

    This should probably go better with the study on welcoming the homeless, but there are plans of possibly putting a homeless shelter in my town. So many are outraged because it will be near neighborhoods and are worried about the their safety. There have been meetings and petitions to forgo this plan. I’m on the fence. What is the right thing to do?

    • HeatherMarie

      It can be difficult to be radical in our love when it comes to things that we fear may threaten our safety. My advice to you is to pray and ask God what he wants you to do and to read the words of Jesus. Matthew 25:40 says that whatever you did for the least of these you did for me. If your town is looking at putting up a shelter it makes me think that there are already those there that need the help. Being outraged and signing petitions to stop them being helped is not welcoming and must be very hard on not only those in need, but those who feel called to help. Ask yourself who these people are who are leading the resistance. Do they really know Jesus in their hearts? I will be praying for you and those in need in your town!

  • I have really been enjoying this particular study. Thank you, SRT! After reading today’s bit, it left me longing for specific ways to welcome strangers into my heart. In particular, one close stranger: my brother in law. I have struggled to like and accept him for a couple years now, but I always find myself secretly judging him for his negativity or rudeness or lack of sense. I really wish I could find a way to accept him and maybe even enjoy him. Can anybody give me specific tips or ideas of ways to soften my heart and learn to accept?

    • Tiffany

      Ask Jesus to give you eyes to see him as He does. When we realize we have been rude, full of negativity and lacking sense and YET the Father lavishes love on us- its easier to extend that same love and grace. :) Pray blessings on him. Just keep praying!

    • Janna

      I need to take my own advice for a certain individual… BUT many years ago I struggled to like someone who was a rather constant in my life. All I could see was the negative and could hardly be polite to her anymore… I knew something had to change so I started to regularly pray for her… and a miracle happened in MY heart!! I started to see life from her perspective & possible hurts… the dislike was gone and my patience grew for the remainder of time our lives crossed frequently. So, praying for him and your heart will do wonders… not praying for how he should change. Just my 2 cents:)

  • With everything that’s happening around the world, it is an important reminder that it is a biblical command to make room for and love EVERYONE, friend or stranger, the way that Jesus has made room for and loved us. Thank you, Claire and She Reads Truth, for this timely series that has been teaching me so much.

  • Hi Misty! I was thinking about that today, how SRT seems to give some verses, then devotional thoughts but doesn’t explain how the verses relate. That’s ok, we’re up for a little hard work ;) I think the John 4 passage was included because Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, even though Samaritans and Jews hated each other (that’s why the woman asks why Jesus is even talking to her).
    If I needed more clarification about a passage I would keep looking at that passage, read it slowly and think about the details and the context and the culture of that time. When I need more information I look at a good Bible commentary. I’m in seminary so it’s easy for me to access them online and in the library but I’m sure your pastor could help point you in the right direction! <3

    • Jenni

      Just thought of another- see if your pastor or a paste you trust has a sermon series on the book you are studying and then listen to the sermon on what you are studying! Hopefully the pastor has looked at some good commentaries for you :)

    • Misty

      I am a little bit between churches. :) I think a bible commentary is a good idea- I will do some research and see if I can find one that would be a good fit for me. When these studies are topical, it is difficult because you may not have context…

      • Eva

        Biblegateway.com has a lot of free commentaries and is also available as an app

      • Cindy

        Blue Letter Bible is an app I use that allows you to compare translations easily and also has a dictionary, concordance and commentaries.

  • Misty Prochaska

    I am having trouble connecting how John 4:1-26 relates to welcoming strangers. What do you do when you are studying alone and need clarification or interpretation about a verse? Is there a particular book you look to?

    • Hilary

      I think this passage isn’t necessarily referring to welcoming strangers (as in, into your home, etc.), but pointing out how this was a woman that Jesus “shouldn’t” be talking to by the standards of the day because of who she was. He was speaking to her and connecting with her even though she may not have been someone that others would have reached out to because she was Samaritan, just as we may not reach out to those who are strangers or different than us. You may find it helpful to get a study Bible with good commentary on each verse at the bottom of the pages. It can give more clarification to things.

    • Caroline

      Hey Misty! The way that I see it connecting is that during this time Jews did not associate with Samaritans. The fact that Jesus was a Jew and was reaching out to intentionally engage with a Samaritan woman is showing us how we should love with no borders….just like Jesus reached out to someone “foreign” to the Jews, we should reach out to others who are “foreign” to us. Hope this helps a little!

  • This story really strikes me today. Claire- love your writing- you inspire me to grasp for that small stick at the edge of the quicksand to pull me out of my depression and start writing again. I was just reading about how we are ambassadors- which in my head connected to how we need to welcome the stranger, because we are too, strangers in this world. I do think those lines we draw are truly invisible lines and wish that we could only remove the scales to see it.

  • At the IF Gathering this weekend Jennie Allen said “The great commission is this: because you have been with Jesus go be with people so they can be with Jesus”. The Samaritan woman who after encountering Jesus went and told the people “Come and see”. I tend to isolate myself and over complicate His calling but the reality of it is simple – Go be with people and love them.

  • This study is so cool with all the current buzz about refugees, immigrants, and the corporate stances on hiring these groups in addition to veterans. Even the graphic provided today would be so politically charged if I shared it on social media(still debating). Regardless of our political views, we are mandated as Christ followers to love people the way Jesus did and that is without exception, meeting their physical needs, then ministering to them spiritually and giving them an opportunity to know Jesus. Hospitality extends beyond inviting someone to have coffee or dinner in our home. I’m thankful for this reminder to love and serve others. It’s that simple – Love God. Love Others.

    • Cynthia

      Shared on social media with the comment that since we are not a Christian nation this does not apply to our government but as a believer I am to treat the foreigner as I would a fellow citizen. Pondering all this!

    • Megan

      This is an interesting conversation, Rachel and Cynthia. I also heard current politics all through these verses, and my first inclination was to boldly share the graphic. . . . but then I stopped to think about it. and I’m tired of debating these things with people online. It makes me so sad that my country and much of the western world has turned its back on these principles. Lord, please show me individually how to be as welcoming as possible, how to show compassion!

  • Amen!

  • Lisa Meyer

    Claire, thank you so much for leading us to God’s Word to influence and guide our thinking with regard to how we live every day. I’ve shared this day’s teaching with as many people as possible.

  • Wow, “close” strangers hit me like a ton of bricks! I have been dealing with these “close” strangers most of my married life. (MIL and SIL). Emotional barriers are so big and so strong. I my case reinforced with unforgiveness. It has been about 3 months since I truely found forgiveness by the grace of God. Not that I wasn’t trying for all of these years, because Lord knows I was! So reassuring that God was seeing my efforts.
    Ladies, let me tell you, once the authentic forgiveness came, the emotional boundaries came crashing down. Praising God I can love these women authentically and pray for them authentically! God has enabled me to have healthy boundaries and still love them like Jesus.

    • Mary, “close” strangers also found a very familiar place with me – your comment really put the icing on it. To have healthy boundaries and still love them like Jesus. Loving and praying for them authentically.. this will sit with me all day. Thank you.

      • Denise

        My goodness, I am going through the exact same thing right now. It has been years of trying to understand these emotional boundaries. The journey vacillates a fair amount, that is for sure. God’s grace truly is the only thing that has gotten both myself and my husband through these ‘close’ stranger difficulties. Healthy boundaries are certainly the first step, though it can be challenging to finally begin to gently and lovingly draw those lines. Thank goodness for the Holy Spirit, His wise counsel and His never ending patience with us all!

    • Alexis

      “Ladies, let me tell you, once the authentic forgiveness came, the emotional boundaries came crashing down. ” Oh you have convicted me. I have a situation in my life right now and I think unforgiveness is the culprit. Thank you for posting this; gives me something to discuss with God and find a way to have authentic forgiveness.

  • “But as I read these verses of Scripture, I’m struck by how much harder it is for me to welcome in those “close” strangers who are a regular part of my life..:Sometimes emotional boundary lines are harder to cross than oceans.” This right here is me! My family and my in laws are some of the hardest people for me to invite into my home and to connect with on an emotional and spiritual level. There is so much judgment and criticism that comes with their visit that sometimes it is too much for me to bear. Praying that God will help me to extend across to my family before reaching across the street.

  • Churchmouse

    Oh the wisdom to balance generosity with caution. I have long talked to my children about “stranger danger” in an effort to keep them safe from predators. And I have long talked to them about “friendship evangelism.” So much is gained in getting to know “the least of these” and showing them the love of Jesus. I lock my doors at night and set my house alarm not just to keep the bad guys out but to keep my family inside safe. Reaching out in any form makes one vulnerable, which makes praying for wisdom and discernment paramount. I don’t want an abundance of caution to become an excuse for isolation. And I don’t want to cast all caution to the wind and cause harm

    • Elle

      Thank you Churchmouse for these words. It truly is a balance trying to dance the wire of vulnerability and proper caution.

    • Mary Joseph

      I know it’s different, because I don’t have children, but this is something I often wonder about. I am tempted to bring the panhandler into my home full of expensive things to share dinner with us. I am more of a “throw caution to Jesus” type person. I want to trust Jesus that if something was going to go horribly wrong, that the Spirit would strongly warn against me bringing that person into my home. But if the worse thing that was to happen is that my TV and PlayStation get stolen… well, that person needed it more than I. And like the priest in Les Miserables, maybe if I were to see them again and forgive them for taking what wasn’t theirs, that would show the light of Christ. I know it becomes a different world when you have children though…

      • Beth

        That balance is difficult at times. Material things is not something we should worry about losing. But sometimes people can be dangerous to our own lives. It is looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance in each circumstance that we are faced with to help someone. There were times that God told the Israelites not to mingle with the people of the land. But at other times they were to welcome people in. We see the example of non Isrealites such as Ruth, Rahab, etc.

    • Hilary

      This was my first thought as I read this today as well. Sadly, in this society, it’s just not safe to do a lot of times. I struggle with knowing how to balance it too.

  • Ephesians 2:12-14 says “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. We were strangers, even enemies of God and Christ let us in <3

  • In the passage from John 4:4 when it says, “And he had to pass through Samaria”, notice the word “had”. Christ had to pass through Samaria. He knew he would meet the Samaritan woman at the well. He had to speak with her.

    After their conversation, the chapter goes on to say, “39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

    42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

    Christ knew, in traveling through Samaria, he would meet and save the woman at the well and that her life would be so dramatically changed through what he said that she would spread his word to her neighbors… “and many more became believers.”

    It wasn’t by happenstance that he’d met her at the well. So let us go forth boldly today knowing that Christ is with and among us- he cares for us and he’s intentional with the relationship he has with us.

Further Reading...