Yesterday the Gospel text was that well known passage from Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats and the Lord saying to the sheep (among other things)” I was a stranger and you took me in.”
My mind jumped back to a book I had read in high school about a British paratrooper who parachuted in Holland in 1944 and was hidden by the Dutch Resistance for four months until he was able to return to England. He was only one of many fugitives who were hidden by brave men and women, one can also think of Corrie Ten Boom and her family as well as those who assisted Anne Frank. What stellar examples of this gospel worked out in real life!
As I pondered this however I started to wonder what we can do to “take in strangers”? There are obvious things of course, the practice of hospitality, sponsoring exchange students and welcoming newcomers to our church communities. How often though do we use those physical activities to really take someone in? What does that mean?
In a discussion last week my mother told a story that illustrated how important it is not only to welcome people by feeding them or assisting with other physical needs but also by bringing them into our lives. We need to include people (even strangers) in the activities we participate in and in our discussion of them and even in our emotional reactions.
Often, I think, we want to guard ourselves, to hold back and let the other person make the first move. But in order to really “take in” those around us we need to let down our guards and let them into our hearts. It is important that we “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” not just because we need to sympathize and empathize with others but because by letting down our guards towards one another we become a more accurate reflection of our Creator. There are no guards in the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and when we become unguarded towards each other we are reflecting that perfect knowledge of and love for one another that we see in the relationships of the Trinity.
Obviously this takes grace. Grace to love vulnerably, knowing that we may be hurt but also knowing that when we truly take a stranger (another human being) into our hearts, we are drawing near to Christ.