For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5: 5

Magic truly exists in a child’s waiting. The anticipation of a birthday or of the coming of Christmas has an energy and a charm to it that is unlike almost anything else that we experience in life. Yet, Christ grants to us another form of anticipatory hope that is even greater than these special moments. We live in a world where there seems to be more things that divide people than there are those that bring us together. This trajectory of divisive thoughts and deeds has been one that has occupied the existence of humanity since early on in our journey across the face of the earth. In fact, we seem to be on a sort of quest to find as many ways to disassociate from each other as we possible can devise or develop. The winner of this game gets to be king of the world and have it all to themselves without need for rubbing elbows with those other disagreeable people out there.

God does not want His children to live like this. He created this world to be a place where we all could live in a form of committed relationship with Him and with each other. Our diversity and differences are supposed to bring about strength through reliance upon others and unity by means of listening to each other’s stories and by means of entering into understanding the other person’s viewpoint and perspective. Yet, these simple acts of conciliation and agreement seem to be among the most difficult things that we can ask of each other, for we often do everything that we can think of to accomplish the opposite effect. We search for our points of disagreement and make those our emphasis in dealing with each other. We form our opinions of the desires and wishes that groups of people hold without even giving them the opportunity to sit down and share those hopes and dreams with us. We separate and set up barriers to contact and communication before we can even see the other person’s eyes.

These are days when we, humanity, need to become young again with the hope of anticipation replacing the fears of generations as our expectation for contact with people from other countries, with different languages, and of religious beliefs that are not our own. When we choose to listen to someone’s story, we are engaging in an act of love. As we seek to hold out the hand of peace to a person that makes us uncomfortable, we are engaging in an act of worship to God, and when we embrace the foreigner with hospitality and provide a welcoming meal in place of the usual protective barriers, we are living out the faith that leads to righteousness. There is no true peace in our world without trust, and there is little trust to be found outside of the healing presence of Christ. Yet, in Him and though the work of His Spirit, we can reengage that child-like hope as we anticipate the blessing that comes through extending the hand of fellowship to people that will grace us with the rich tapestry of their stories as we are faithful to Christ’s call to unity for all of humanity.  

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15: 7

This verse brings up the question, who is it that I do welcome and who do I not? For the reality of it all is that there are people that I give warmth and acceptance to and there are others with whom I do not so readily do this. What makes the difference, and why is it that I even think that I have a right to so discriminate when God does not do this? Jesus was hammered onto that cross for everyone. This is an undiluted and non-differentiated fact. Jesus had demonstrated the nature of God’s grace and His heart for redemption many times; so, there was really no question left about the availability of welcome when it came to God and to admittance into His kingdom. All are welcomed in, Christ has paid for that right for each and every one who will accept His love gift, and God, the Host, desires that each of us would accept the invitation to join in this eternal feast.

So, when it comes to my own attitudes about people, God grants me very little latitude to determine who is acceptable to me. As it pertains to my discriminating mind, the Lord seeks to provide me with opportunities to grow and to expand the length and the depth of my understanding of others so that I can just begin to see them as He does. Additionally, when I encounter people that are troubling to me in any of the ways that my sensibilities are upset, the Spirit is speaking to me to remind me that the person there before me that is causing me such disgust or who is so marginalized in my sight as to not even be visible is, in fact, a living, a thinking, and a feeling person who has been created by God’s own hand in His divine image. Thus, I have no right to turn up my nose or to avert my eyes when I am in the presence of God’s beloved creation.

It seems to me that the most important thing that Paul says here is what he tells us about the purpose of possessing this welcoming heart. We are to view others in this manner for the glory of God. As sinful people who dwell in our shaken and shattered world, we are not ready and willing to welcome people who trouble us into our homes and up to our tables. Acts of hospitality such as this are supernatural in their instigation and in their implementation. So, acts of care for others and extending love to them is a form of worship that carries with it the presence of Christ. This sort of unnatural acceptance of people who would in the usual state of our hearts and minds be ones that we would avoid is the work of the Spirit within us. It comes out of our surrender to the Christ who knew no strangers and who welcomed the most heavily sin stained of all humanity to come and to dine at His grace-filled table of redemption. Thus, in light of these hard truths, my Lord says to me, “My child, go about this day with open arms and with welcome on your lips.”