Wherever you happen to stand politically, there’s no denying that immigration played a huge role in last year’s presidential election, and continues to be a major issue within the current administration. Talk of creating a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has circulated for months. A major travel ban is set to be argued before the Supreme Court, and congress is still reeling from Trump’s decision to end DACA, which could upend the lives of countless young migrants. It also goes without saying that these events have forced Christians to rethink what it means to love our neighbor and welcome those in need.
Many Christians want to help their immigrant neighbors but don’t know how to navigate the political chaos. While starting conversations is a great way to begin, there is one spiritual gift which could make all the difference in providing for those at risk: the lost art of hospitality. Melissa Collier Gepford, a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, has put deep thought into the concept of hospitality. In her eyes, hospitality is far more than showing kindness to strangers, it is the experience of welcoming God by welcoming others. She writes,
“When we welcome others into our space, we commune with someone who bears the image of God. There’s just something about giving your best to someone. They experience abundant life from you, and in return, you get more abundant life. The mystery of abundant life is this: the more you give it away, the more you get it back. Abundant life requires courageously, proactively and abundantly welcoming the stranger; for when we do this, we welcome God.”
“If we welcome God when we welcome the stranger, we also turn God away when we turn away the stranger. When we bless the immigrant, we bless God. When we harm those in need, we harm God. Christians are called to be people of radical hospitality, who welcome the stranger and bless those in need.”
Gepford’s message should resonate with Christian readers. The gospel of Christ calls its followers to go throughout creation (Mark 16:15) and invite the orphaned into the family of Jesus (Luke 14:13). The act of hospitality, of welcoming, is a powerful step in any journey of faith, and like all journeys, it can’t be done while hiding behind closed doors. Not long ago, Dayspring.com gave readers some practical advice in demonstrating life-changing hospitality. The first step, is to go outside.
“Hospitality begins with an open heart. It’s not just about bringing people into our homes; it’s about reaching out and bringing them into our lives. Who’s been crossing your path lately? Coworkers, neighbors, classmates, other parents, coffee shop regulars? Begin with a simple prayer for connection with those who need God’s grace in this moment.”
“Take a good look around. What’s in your home right now that feels inviting? Maybe it’s a coffee maker; a porch swing; a pool table - even just a bunch of candles on the mantle. We don’t need big, impressive things to bless people. Even small things offered to God can help us make life-changing connections.”
Hospitality is one of the greatest acts of fellowship we can share with another person, and it’s a shame the virtue has become so rare. If we truly hope to find a solution to such a difficult and volatile subject as immigration, it makes sense that Christians would need to respond with something as dynamic and transformative as hospitality. It’s certainly a risk to open our hearts and doors to the stranger, but then again, showing love always is.
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com