Last week I returned from a two week long trip to India to get to know some of the widowed women that our church has given microloans to over the past few years. There was far more to it than that, but you can expect that several upcoming TFG reflections will mention this trip and the things God was stirring during my time.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Late in January, I found myself in India, sitting in a one room flat belonging to a family of 5. Actually, that happened nearly every day while I was there.
Without getting lost in details, much of our time was spent visiting families that Advocacy Global (the organization I was working with) had built relationships with over the years. So there were many visits to be made.
When people heard that our group was nearby, they eagerly anticipated us coming to their homes. That’s why I want to talk about bananas and orange soda.
Over and over again, our group of 5-6 people or so piled into a space that could barely hold that many- plus the families themselves! I sat on beds, leaned against walls, and squatted in corners. With almost no room to shift our bodies, we were welcomed with huge smiles and a barrage of snacks- whatever was available. Often, it was a banana and a cup of soda.
In our cultural context, so many things can limit this sort of hospitality. If your house is too small or too simple or too cluttered, you feel bad about having people over. If your shelves are bare, you have to go out and buy a bunch of fancy food in order to really feel like a host.
But over and over again (one of us tried to say no to a banana after having eaten one only minutes ago, but our host refused to hear of it), we were welcomed into tiny spaces with simple snacks.
But it had the feel of something even more honoring. It felt like we were being loved beyond what a banquet could provide.
Because that’s what true hospitality is. It’s about the spirit, not the body. It’s about being welcomed into each other’s spaces with warmth and joy.
We asked to hear our friends’ stories. We told our own. We showed pictures and prayed for our brothers and sisters and asked them to pray for us. It felt like a holy privilege to sit on a crowded bed and be invited into the lives of many people I had never even met before.
What if we embraced a hospitality of bananas and warm soda? What if our daily lives were focused on inviting people into our lives, offering what we had, but more focused on being together than anything else?
We are burdened with attitudes of perfection and control over invitations to connection. And I’m afraid it’s killing the mark of hospitality in us.
There’s something about receiving true hospitality that immediately transcends any externals. When you know you are wanted, neither party cares about being fancy. And when we simply offer what we have, then what we have is transformed into the richest of foods. Bananas cannot be distinguished from creme brûlée. Orange soda is just as beautiful as champagne.
This is what Jesus offers us- he welcomes us into a world of his presence, which transforms our daily tasks and our daily struggles because we know we are loved and we know we are not alone. And this changed heart opens us up to show hospitality to our world in simple ways. We initiate a kind word, we open our doors, we welcome a stranger. We need neither fancy dishes nor fancy spaces- because Christ has the capacity to transform anything into a banquet when our spirits are postured toward love. And we never know who we might end up meeting along the way 😇.
Jesus, break down any barriers that are keeping me from welcoming others into my life today.