The Power of Recognition
From Hospitality: Sharing God’s Welcome
[Excerpted from Hospitality: Sharing God’s Welcome, Tammy Lindle Lewis, Herald House, 2006, pp. 45-46]
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. -Isaiah 55:12
When we label someone a stranger, it is usually because that person is unknown or represents something different or unknown to us. If we think about it, we each are strangers, too. Even though we may be blessed with a multitude of resources and are surrounded by close connections through friends and family, there are many people in the world who don’t know who we are and who don’t know anything about us. As unlikely as it may sound to label ourselves, we must remember that to many people we are strangers.
However, strangers are not only people who are unknown to us; many times they are also those who are disconnected from basic relationships that give people a secure place in the world. They are often detached from family, community, church, and work. People without a place who are also without financial resources are sometimes the most vulnerable people. They not only lack supportive connections with other human beings, but they also are unable to purchase many of the basic necessities of life.
If we look closely at the specific categories of people who warrant hospitality in biblical texts, we will see that they have one thing in common: they are all vulnerable populations. They exist on the margins, both socially and economically. They can easily be ignored and seldom bring status of financial gain to those who reach out to them. Many individuals who are not valued by the larger community are essentially invisible to it. When people are socially invisible, their needs and concerns are not acknowledged, and no one even notices the injustices they suffer. Offering hospitality can begin a journey toward visibility and respect. When we offer hospitality to strangers, we welcome them into a place to which we are somehow connected-a place that has meaning and value to us.
When hospitality is offered, the stranger is welcomed into a safe, personal, and comfortable place, a place of respect, acceptance, and friendship. Even if only briefly, the stranger becomes the guest and is included in a life-giving and life-sustaining network of relations. Such welcome involves attentive listening and a mutual sharing of lives and stories. It requires an open heart, a willingness to make one’s life visible, and a generosity of time and resources.
Let your world of beauty capture me.
Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart
Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breathing slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring of love. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.