Today’s scriptures speak to me of numerous things. Humility, love, honor and respect. How we are to treat family and strangers (or foreigners). In the story of Ruth, Ruth is a foreigner. A stranger in a strange land. And Ruth is humble and obedient. She shows love, honor and respect to her mother-in-law when the easy thing would have been to return to her family and her homeland. Her reward is that her son, Obed, is to be the grandfather of King David. Ruth becomes part of the lineage of Christ. The psalmist proclaims that the Lord blesses those who fear him. In the book of Matthew, Jesus is critical of the Pharisees for their lack of humility. The Pharisees seek to honor themselves and in doing so, they make other people’s lives harder. Christ tells the disciples that they are brothers with one Father in heaven. Jesus tells them that they all must be servants. There are great lessons to be learned here.
I recently returned from the O’Reilly family reunion. This year there were several people whom I would call guests. Two young ladies and a young man who came as friends of one of the relatives at the reunion. They were not blood relatives and they were not married into the family (yet). They were quite easy to spot. Standing alone to the side of the room. Shy and uncomfortable. Afraid to even make eye contact. They were strangers in a strange land. It would have been easy to ignore them. After all, I was there to see relatives I had not seen in some time. However, God calls us to be welcoming. To show love and honor and respect, not just to our immediate family, but to strangers and foreigners. My hope is that I was a welcoming presence and an ambassador for Christ.
Several years ago my family was the host family for a foreign exchange student. We were to host a 17 year old young lady from Japan. We were told that our student could speak English. We were told that she might have a hard time adapting to a large family. Especially a family with so many boys. We were also told that people from Japan were often aloof and could seem cold. None of this was true. Yuki could barely speak a word of English. Despite the language barrier, we quickly realized that Yuki was a warm, loving young lady who immediately became part of our family. She always called me father and I was humbled by the honor and respect that she accorded me as a father. When it came time for Yuki to go back to Japan, she cried. And cried. And cried. In the airport, Yuki put her head on my shoulder and sobbed. I finally said, "Yuki, you have to get on the plane." She pointed to my hand and choked out the word bag. I realized I was holding her handbag and she couldn’t get on the plane until I handed it to her. After Yuki’s plane left, I walked to the parking lot and it was my turn to cry. I never would have guessed that a stranger from a strange land could have had such an impact on my life.
It’s easy to spot a stranger. The person at the side of the room looking uncomfortable. The person at the back of the church sitting by themselves. Christ calls us to humble ourselves and be welcoming servants. My prayer this day would be for God’s guidance when it comes to strangers and for a humble and welcoming heart.
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