Open your home for community.
Jesus makes some pretty strong statements in the Bible. One such statement is found in the parable of the sheep and goats, located in Matthew 25: 31-46. In it, Jesus likens those who address the felt needs of others as “blessed.” However, he refers to those who fail to address the felt needs of others as “cursed.” Regarding the latter, he says in verse 41: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (NIV). Ouch! What was Jesus thinking? Why would He call people cursed because of their lack of compassion? Why did He not say “cursed are you if you don’t fast and pray regularly,” or “cursed are you if you willingly commit certain sins?”
According to Matt. 25, one of the things Jesus expects us to do is to care for the foreigner. I fear that too many of us have neglected this important segment of our society. For example, according to statistics published by the International Institute of Education, 723,277 international students attended U.S. colleges and universities during the 2010/11 school year. Of those students, 75 percent or more will not be invited into an American home during their entire course of study. Say it isn’t so!
Hospitality is such an important practice mentioned throughout the Bible. Has our failure to show hospitality blocked us from receiving some of the blessings of Jesus? Conversely, when we’ve practiced hospitality, hasn’t it contributed to our blessings?
I thank God for people like Estelle, a former faculty member at a university in Georgia. Before she retired, Estelle would invite 5-12 international students at a time over to her home for dinner and would break out the fine china and gold flatware. One student said he had only heard of these fine items, but had never seen them. Estelle would feed the students soul food, play games with them, and take time to learn about their lives. The students expressed great appreciation for her hospitality. Only God knows the tremendous impact she had on their lives.
Join Estelle on the side of the sheep. Let’s care for the foreigners and strangers among us. This includes more than just international students. There are many refugees and immigrants in our own back yard longing to build relationships. Consider how you can engage those around you. Maybe take an international friend to a baseball or football game; ask your international friend to take you to an event that is reflective of his or her culture; host a cooking class at your home in which you and your international friends teach each other how to make favorite recipes.
If you would like to take me up on this challenge, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be glad to hold you accountable. And even more, I’d be glad to hear about the wonderful stories resulting from your obedience.
Richard Coleman is The Mission Society’s senior director of mobilization and candidacy.