Making Room for the Stranger
Open Your Bible
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—well, a new house to us, at least. 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 countertops. 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 18-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 just a few days, through smiles and hugs and the heavy use of words like 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 shared 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 sins. 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. This makes me wonder, Is it possible that there is no such thing as a stranger? Is it possible that all the boundaries we draw are invisible? Is it possible that the lines of language and skin color and difference are passing away?
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. Yet, 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 can be easy to isolate ourselves 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 forgotten. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).