I was in Michigan last Sunday, a stranger in a strange church. At the end of the service an elderly woman approached and introduced herself as Lola and warmly invited me for coffee and a bagel in the fellowship room. (The refreshments were not free in this church, so the invitation was a financial sacrifice as well as a sacrifice of time.) I later learned from someone that Lola is a widow of 80 and lives alone.
Then a middle-aged couple, also recognizing me as a newcomer, drew near and delayed their departure to chat amicably with me. Their manner was earnest and sincere, not at all perfunctory, and while it was perhaps no big deal for them to take the time, it was utterly delightful for me and made all the difference in the world in the way I felt about that church. "What gracious people," I thought-as we always tend to assess a whole population by our interactions with just one or two representatives of it.
It is more blessed to give than to receive, and that's the truth. As good as it felt to be on the receiving end of such hospitality, I recognized that Lola's and the couple's blessing exceeded mine. And I marveled (again) at my own constrictedness of heart, that at my home church I have not gone out of my way to love the stranger in my midst. It is a command of God with no statute of limitations, and one with great reward.
"You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 19:34).
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).
How would you like to meet an angel?