Who do you need to make space for that is strange to you?
Who is your “hard to love” person? On every street and in every home lives someone who is hard to love. If you look down your street or across the dinner table and don’t see one, it might mean you are the “hard to love” person. Who in your world do you think is too far from God’s grace or secretly hope they are too far? Who is too dirty, rude, obnoxious or strange to sit at God’s table?
Let me suggest a few possibilities:
A gay person.
A greedy person
A man who has been convicted of domestic violence
A radical feminist
An Oakland Raider fan
A black person
An undocumented immigrant
A white supremacist
A millennial who plays video games all day.
When we really absorb Jesus into our core, we all will be people who are marked by humility and hospitality. The challenge for you and me is to always be ready to offer hospitality to the strange and the strangers of this world.
Let me tell you a true story that happened to me a few years ago…
One of us said, “What is that moving this way?” Someone reached for their spyglasses and described what they saw. At thirteen thousand feet and walking towards us a half a mile away was a man with no backpack, rain gear, or anything you might normally consider important while climbing the alpine ridges of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. But there he came as quick as you please.
He was wearing a floppy straw hat with a red bandanna wrapped around the sweatband with some sort of cordage to tie it under his chin. He wore a plain white fruit-of-the-loom undershirt and sky-blue, unhemmed polyester dress slacks that had been cut off mid-thigh. The stray strands blew like spider webs in the breeze. On his feet were a pair of low-grade suede hiking shoes and white cotton athletic socks. Dangling from his leather belt was an almost empty half-gallon milk jug.
As this was described to us our mood moved from disbelief to confusion to incredulity. We had seventy-pound packs, three-hundred-dollar backpacking boots, not a stitch of cotton on our bodies. We were prepared for hypothermia. We had rain gear, rope, food for six days, water purification tablets, sleeping bags, emergency gear, and first aid kit. We were totally prepared for these rugged mountains.
Not this guy.
When he approached our group he smiled and said, “Howdy!” His glasses were thick, and they fogged up as he looked at us. He was barely breathing hard at altitude. He scratched at his right forearm, then his neck and then at his thigh. Someone asked where he was camped and he shrugged and tossed his head to his left and down the line of ridges indicating south and said, “Back thataway.”
“Where you headed?” we asked next. With the same vagueness, he jutted out his chin northward and said, “Thataway.”
We sat on a 13,200-foot pass where there was no trail and no shelter in any direction. Where had this guy come from and where was he going?
He untwisted the lid to the milk jug and took a swallow of the little water that was left in the jug, wiped his mouth and grinned. We were dumbstruck. He was dressed more like a beach bum from the south Texas gulf coast than a man walking alpine ridges in Colorado.
An awkward silence hung between us.
Finally, someone asked him if he needed anything.
“I’m alright,” he said. “Bugs are really bad, aren’t they? I could use some insect repellent if you could spare any” he said. He was covered with pink bumps, some scabbed over, and some looked infected. Smallpox or a hornet’s nest was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him standing there scratching.
My friend Jim jumped up and said, “I have a second bottle of ‘Jungle Juice’ I’ll give you.”
“No. Just squirt me a little in this sandwich bag.” He reached in his pocket pulled out a crumpled-up baggie, turned it inside out dumping some crumbs and held it open for Jim. About six or seven good squirts was enough he said. He twisted a knot in the top of it and put it into his pocket, rubbed the spillage on his arms, legs, neck, and face.
“Don’t get any of that juice on your glasses, it’ll dissolve your lenses,” someone offered. Nervous laughter rippled around our group.
“Well,” he said. “I better get going. Thanks for the bug juice.” He grinned, looked northward and off he went. We watched him drop down over the edge of the ridge; never to be seen again.
We sat there, slack-jawed.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:3
Wait, one more thing…
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 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. Matthew 25:34-36
I am not certain that an angel will show up when we show the kindness of God, but I do know that the King of Kings always shows up where we accept the strange and the stranger.
The King, I tell you. The King.