Jesus instructed his students to walk from village to village in order to find people willing to welcome them into their homes. For Jesus, welcoming strangers and hospitality is a powerful spiritual characteristic. Luke recorded this teaching, “Whenever you enter a house and are welcomed there, eat what is before you, heal the sick and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you’” (10:8-9). Those who are willing to welcome strangers past their gates, into their homes, and ultimately share meals with them, are a sign of God’s presence in that community.
Our time in El Salvador has proved these teachings true. We have often walked through communities in search of conversation and fellowship. Those whom we have had the opportunity to share meals and stories with have been those whom first welcomed us strangers into their homes. The invitation is only the beginning; afterwards encouragement, education, healing and empowerment then become possible. A few nights ago, we shared a meal with one of our neighbors and he explained the anxiety he felt concerning life’s everyday struggles. In response we communicated the evident nearness of God in his life and his house as a whole because they were willing to be hospitable to strangers. He concluded our conversation with a large smile, repeating the fact that he felt different and that God has blessed us and his family greatly.
We asked a woman in a poor community why she was hospitable and willing to share with such generosity. Her smiling response was humbling, “I never thought I would have the opportunity to share my small table with new friends.” These moments are full of life and image the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Although we are strangers in a new land, we also hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35-36. We are responsible to welcome our new friends and begin the lifelong journey of love through service so that they can eat from communally beneficial gardens, easily obtain clean water, experience community in which their neighbors are no longer strangers but friends. We together can share resources and skills in order to produce clothing and shoes that protect the body, care for one another so that the sick are free to rest and heal while neighbors support lost wages, and implement empowering opportunities for education so that prison does not become a common reality for Salvadoran youth. This is the Kingdom of God and it begins by making friends with strangers.
Matthew 25:35-36 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Written by Matthew Parker