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Taking Hospitality to the Streets

Taking Hospitality to the Streets

“Hey, Miss? My friend needs an ambulance!”

Hey can’t you see I’m on the phone? On a walk? On vacation?  I turned to see a scruffy, rumpled man emerge from a gap in the foliage next to the sidewalk. Over the years I’ve learned that I can’t always judge the safety of the situation by my feelings – I need to listen. Kind of like grabbing daddy’s hand in a crowd—I quickly checked my attitude and grabbed the Holy Spirit’s hand, so to speak. Are we okay, Lord? I felt peaceful. That’s usually a sign that Jesus is leading me into uncharted territory.

As a second man stumbled from the woods, clearly hurting, I ended my call and dialed 911. The ambulance pinpointed our location via satellite and arrived a few minutes later. As the sick man was tended to by paramedics, the first man grabbed me in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you for helping!”

That was so not me.

My regular, daily list does not include to do’s like Hug a smelly homeless guy. Pick up two hitchhikers while driving alone. Mix and mingle at the local gun range. But oddly, I’ve found myself in all of these situations – and more.

This, my friend, is Jesus. The One who welcomes strangers.

Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners. Leviticus 19:34 (MSG)

The beauty of hospitality is that it doesn’t depend on a nice home or a well-stocked pantry. It doesn’t matter if you light candles, play trendy music, or serve a feast.

Hospitality resides in the heart, right alongside the most hospitable One of all.

Jesus has a habit of meeting people where they’re at. And that often means places where you and I don’t normally look.I don’t know about you—but my faith in myself when it comes to strangers, especially with different lifestyles from my own, is about the size of a mustard seed. Maybe. But that’s where Jesus steps in. Because He loves others ceaselessly. And He welcomes them with open arms.

So, how can yours be the arms He uses to embrace people in the streets? And by in the streets, I mean grocery stores, prisons, fast food windows, schools, sidewalks – wherever you travel.

Here are a 5 tips:

1. Watch Jesus
He did all the uncool things for all the uncool people. In Samaria, He listened to a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. In Jericho, He invited Himself over to a tax collector’s house. In Galilee, He touched a leper. Wherever He went, Jesus welcomed the low, broken, hurting, unclean, and lonely. Reminding myself of His unconventional ways somehow makes it less scary when I find myself in unconventional situations.

2. Deal with your stuff
The other day, I was feeling yuck. That’s my technical term for uncaring, apathetic, and alone. It’s often a sign that I’ve distanced myself from the intimacy and warmth of His love. “Father, is there something keeping me from getting close to You right now?” It wasn’t long before I remembered someone I hadn’t forgiven for a comment they’d made, which had hurt me. I find that when I haven’t fully surrendered an attitude or sin to Him, I care less about others. Sin separates. Honesty and weakness draw Him like a bear hug to a baby.

3. Be a pizza box
Pastor Jentezen Franklin has a teaching where he asks how we’d take it if the pizza delivery person showed up with a soggy, hot, drippy pizza hanging from his hand…. Of course the average person would ask, “Where’s the box?!?” He goes on to say that a pizza box costs about 39 cents to manufacture, but it is essential to a good pizza experience! In a similar – yet much more significant – way, the treasure is Jesus, and He uses vessels through which He can deliver His heart to others. You are needed, my friend!

4. Pay attention
It’s a good practice to begin each day with something like this: Holy Spirit, You have permission to interrupt my thoughts, my path, my plans, and my steps today. Open my heart to the things on Your heart and open my eyes to the ones You want to impact with Your love.

Then listen and watch! Who catches your attention? What strange thoughts come to mind? Maybe your church has a Saturday lunch ministry to the homeless, and it will change your life. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you suddenly want to start one. Maybe like me, you’ll be stopped by a kid on the street who needs directions, and you’ll end up helping him get to his job interview on time. 

Holy Spirit is very creative—and He’ll surely use you in ways you feel fulfilled and thankful. 

5. Practice
Romans 12:13 says, in various ways & translations, to practice hospitality. The Greek word for “practice” is dioko, meaning “to pursue, to follow, press forward” (Strong’s G1377). In other words, hospitality is an ongoing pursuit. There’s no perfection in it. It’s simply in trying that you succeed.

In a nutshell, hospitality is much more about the heart than the home. By all means don’t stop inviting people in (see Luke 14:12-14; James 2:1-4; Isaiah 58:7)! But don’t be afraid to let Him take you to the streets, either.

After all—Your heart is His home, and He welcomes everyone.

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