Who is a stranger? Are they the people around us that we do not know? Yes, that is one kind of stranger. Many of us are surrounded by people we do not know daily as we conduct our business and travel here and there. We may seldom even pay attention to others around us as we do what is needful daily. So, strangers are everywhere, it would seem, and we pass by them and may not even recognize their presence.
What if a stranger comes into our personal space? What if someone we do not know asks something of us? It may be simply asking the time of day or directions to an unfamiliar place but many times we encounter others whom we do not know and we form an opinion of them based upon our interaction with them. We may have even been a stranger to others if we have traveled and have needed assistance. We may have asked others to perform tasks for us as we tried to negotiate unfamiliar territory.
My wife and I love to travel and we have been to Europe several times. We have driven in the United Kingdom where they drive on the other side of the road as opposed to how we do it. It always seems odd to drive on the left instead of the right and I have had times when I have nearly gotten involved in accidents because of my ignorance of their system. They have those traffic circles which they call "roundabouts" which cause no end to terror or distress when one is trying to negotiate them. How does one know where to get out of the circle once you enter it? That was a question that plagued me as we traveled so I asked a woman we knew who lived there how to successfully negotiate the circle without getting into an accident. She laughed and explained how the circle works and told me to think of each road leading away from it as an exit. She said to determine which exit to take and then to steer in that direction. Her advice was "right on" and the next time I entered a roundabout I thought about the exits and was able to drive onto the road that would take me to the place where I wanted to go. How easy it was to understand what to do when it was simply explained.
Interacting with others is easy when one understands that each of us on this planet are in relationship with everyone else. We all exist to be involved in the lives of everyone else around us. Our involvement may be on a surface level or we may just be "on call" to others as we all try to negotiate the world around us. When someone else asks something of us, then we determine if we can be of assistance to them or if we need to direct them to others who may be able to help them more then we can. Extending hospitality to others may involve being creative in our world so as to not put ourselves in harm's way or to become so involved that we cannot reasonably meet our own needs.
Hospitality to strangers often happens as others visit our homes or churches where we worship. In our homes we offer strangers the necessities of life (food, water, rest) and in our churches we offer the same things but in spiritual ways as well as material ways. We invite strangers to feel at home as they rest in our worship spaces, to participate in worship as they feel they are able, and to join us in fellowship after our worship to share a drink and a conversation. We attempt to be inclusive so that all feel welcome despite the differences that may exist between strangers. Hospitality crosses the divisions that are apparent as we welcome others into our space and venture into theirs.
"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:1-2)