There are cards for everything these days—even birthday cards for pets! So what card do you buy when you care enough to send the very best to a stranger?
Where Can I Buy a Hospitality Card?
The question struck me as I thought about Romans 12:13 and the twin call we find there to care for others. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” I have to believe “contribute to the needs of the saints” means more than just providing financial support. We contribute to people’s needs by sharing meals, encouraging and praying for each other, and standing by each other during times of difficulty and joy.
I was thinking about how often I’ve received a card from a friend that came at just the right time. Not just birthdays, anniversaries, or even Pastor Appreciate Month, but those cards that just show up sometimes. The ones that say things like, “Thinking of you,” or “Thanks for all you do.” Those cards bring some much-needed encouragement.
But what about the other half of that verse? “Seek to show hospitality.” I’ve mentioned before, the word “Hospitality” in the New Testament literally means “Love of strangers.” Loving strangers is a call that we find back in the Old Testament Law. In Leviticus, after verse 18 calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” verse 34 ups the ante by calling us to, “Treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is one thing, but “love your stranger as yourself?” What does that look like? Where do we begin?
Maybe We Send a Hospitality Card!
Can you imagine getting a card from a complete stranger that sounded like a card you’d get from a friend? What if you got a card that said, “I know you don’t know me, but the Bible calls us to love strangers, and our church is trying to be more intentional about that. If you need anything, just ask. I’d love to help out. I hope you’re having a great day!”
I think I’d be blown away! Now, what if a stranger got a card like that from you?
I don’t know that Hospitality Cards is the place to begin when it comes to loving strangers, but we often send cards when someone we know is on our hearts. Some of you are gifted at knowing how to send precisely the right card at the right time! Somehow, we need to find a way to make sure our hearts are open to strangers in the same way as they’re open to each other.
In fact, Jesus tells us that’s where we find him. In Matthew 25, it isn’t in the give-and-take relationship of friends and church family that we find the promise of Jesus’ presence. Instead, Jesus says, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). In his book Stranger God, Richard Beck writes that this story teaches us, “we don’t show hospitality to be like Jesus. We show hospitality to welcome Jesus.”
Forget about Hospitality Cards. Jesus has sent you an invitation card! It’s an invitation to love your stranger as yourself and, in doing so, find yourself loving Jesus!