Open your Bible and read Luke 14.
This stranger scared me, to be honest. I was a young child, and in our community, he was what they called “rough around the edges”. The first time he attended our family Christmas gathering was the first time I actually saw “in real life” a man with long hair, ripped jeans, and tattoos.
He wasn’t actually a stranger to all of us. His own family life was troubled, and a member of my family had invited him to join us. It was never discussed, to my knowledge. It just became normal to have him there every year at Christmas. And I grew to like him instead of being scared of him.
Looking back now as an adult, I marvel at the graciousness of my grandparents who hosted this young man. Knowing their ultra-conservative background, it must’ve been acres beyond their comfort zone. He was about as opposite my family as you can get. And yet, I never saw a glimmer of judgment toward him. I just saw him welcomed with open arms and treated like one of the family.
In today’s reading of Luke 14, verse 1 made me pause. In those days, it was a big deal to share a meal with someone. Jesus had major ongoing friction with the Pharisees, yet He still associated with them and had obviously been invited to this Pharisee’s home.
Jesus knew His host hadn’t chosen his guests out of love or a desire to serve them. It was because he wanted something in return. So Jesus challenged His host not to make a habit of only inviting those who would repay his kindness. In fact, Jesus told him to invite those who were the outcasts in society.
The original language of this text implies that Jesus doesn’t expect us to always reach outside our usual circles, but He wants us to be careful that we don’t limit our friends to only those we’re comfortable with or those we find it easy to serve.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? (Matthew 4:43-48, ESV)…
What about you? Is there someone you don’t normally associate with who could use an invitation this Christmas? Are you going to step outside of your comfort zone over the holidays and reach out to someone new?