It's a blurry photo with a red line running through it! :-)
(From the field trip yesterday.)
There is a man at my church who walks through the hallways and "sanctuary" (it's a gym) every Sunday, saying hello with a beaming, welcoming smile to everyone he sees. Sometimes he stops to chat for a bit--always about you, and rarely about him. Even though you know he does this with each person he encounters, it doesn't matter because with that smile and hello he somehow makes you feel special, singled out, important, like you’re his favorite person at church. He remembers your name. You can’t help but beam back at this man, and after you walk by, your heart is warm, and you keep on smiling.
This man is very beloved in our church. He’s from Persia (he refuses call it Iran), where warm hospitality is a cultural expectation, but he takes it beyond what human hospitality can muster at its very best. He carries Light and Truth. It’s in his heart, it beams across his face in that smile, and it touches every person who crosses his path.
This man is walking hospitality. He doesn’t strive to be hospitable; he just is because he can’t be anything else. He is full of the Love that Jesus has for the whole world, and it seems to bubble out of him and infect everyone who is lucky enough to come near him.
This man recently found out that he has incurable brain cancer. When the church received the news, I am sure that every person who knows this man cried. I certainly did. To think of him being gone (unless the Lord chooses to heal him) seems like a little bit of the light of Jesus is disappearing from among us. And of course it is, but, hopefully, partly because we've learned from this man, that light will be replaced by others who love Jesus, too.
Hospitality is not just about having a warm and welcome home. It’s not just about inviting people over for food and conversation, though this is very important. Real hospitality is you. Or more precisely, real hospitality is Christ in you. It touches everyone that crosses your path. It is in every conversation, in every smile, in every meeting of the eyes, in every small interaction in your life.
Hospitality happens in your home, starting with your children and your husband. When you see them, do you beam at them a warm and joyful smile? Do they each feel that warmth from you so much that, secretly, they suspect they must be your favorite? That’s how Jesus makes me feel—that I am His favorite. But, of course, so are you.
Hospitality happens when you meet someone in the hallway at church. It happens when you sip coffee in a shop with a friend. It happens in every exchange in a campus classroom. It happens in your office. It happens on the bus. It happens when you invite someone to share your home or a meal. But hospitality is not really in the acts that you do; it is in what fills your heart. Are you full of yourself or of Christ? When we are full of Him, we can’t help but bubble with His love and warmth until it spills over and others know that love and warmth, too.
My actions, my influence, my way of “being hospitality,” will not be the same as this man’s from my church. Jesus is manifest in each of us differently because none of us can come close to containing all of Him. And that is why the church is a beautiful thing. It takes all of us to make up “Him” on this earth.
Love Him and be full of Him, and loving others will come naturally.