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She walked through the door by herself. Strange thoughts ran through her mind.
“Am I dressed ok?
What if it’s weird?
Please, don’t let me say something stupid.
Better yet, please don’t let anyone talk to me!
But please don’t ignore me!
Oh help! Why is this so hard?”
Entering a church for the first time shouldn’t be intimidating but it is. Any unknown place is. We each fight with our past experiences and current fears.
I entered an event two years ago. I was the speaker, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t know a soul. Woman after woman greeted me. Some chatted a bit. They shared a little of their lives and I shared a little of mine. As we talked I realized they didn’t know I was the speaker. What they observed was a woman who arrived alone. A woman who needed to be greeted and received into their community. What a gift! They helped settle my nerves. They helped me through the awkward transition from unknown to welcomed guest.
These women lived Romans 12:13 (NLT) “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” They were so good at it. I would have started attending that church had I not had a home church already. Truly lovely hospitable people.
The word hospitality used in Romans 12:13 means “love to strangers”. Paul was not talking about giving a cup a tea to a dear friend. He was reminding us of the importance of extending love to all we meet. This is a powerful message. It goes against the idea of looking out for self first. The next verse in Scripture (Romans 12:14) tells us to bless those who persecute us. When we show this kind of hospitality it is risky. We have no idea the kind of people we are greeting. We are to do it anyway.
The next time you are at a place you feel comfortable, look around for someone that looks a little lost. Say hello and make a little small talk. Invite them to join you and your friends. Don’t worry about their response. Their acceptance or rejection of your offer is their responsibility not yours. Remember everyone appreciates kind words and gentle welcome.
I asked on my social media pages “Why is your church community important to you?” Over and over I read, “They support, encourage, and pray for me” “They are family.” “They understand and know me.” “They accept me.” On and on went similar comments. The need for relationship is at the center of our beings. We desire community and connection. Someone at the beginning of your journey at your church stepped forward and shared hospitality. What a gift! A God centered precious extension of His Holy Spirit from one person to another.
Simply put we have a choice. We can self-focus. We recognize our own needs, our own limitations and let our insecurities win. Or we can extend a hand, defeating the grip of insecurity on our self and maybe on the one we invite in. The effect of the greeting is immaterial. It is simply the right thing to do.