The book of Genesis tells the story where God appears to Abraham as three strangers who arrive to tell him of the impending birth of his son Isaac. When he sees the strangers walking by his tent he invites them to stay with him for a while and take some refreshment. The writer of Hebrews probably had this story in mind saying “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (13:2). Being both Southern and a Christian I have tried being mindful of this reminder to practice hospitality. So, when three strangers knocked on our door last night seeking shelter during a storm, I did not hesitate.
They were three young men who were part of some door-to-door subscription sales scheme. It was the kind of marketing from which that I never buy because of the possibility of being scammed. These guys were wet, cold, and very afraid. A severe weather and tornado warning had come over one of their phones. “We’ll just stay here on the porch if that is ok?” I told them they were welcome to stay and I would sit outside with them. Seeing the clouds, I did not think a tornado was likely. Lightning and wind were bad enough. One of the guys complained about being cold. We gave him an extra sweater we had. I asked when they had last eaten. They said they would not get to eat until late that night. Knowing my wife was warming soup on the stove for our dinner, I asked her to give some bowls of soup to them. She brought glasses of sweet tea too.
So it was during a bad storm we strangers visited one another. We heard about each others’ lives. They asked about the church next door. When I told them I was the pastor they asked many more questions. I told them I was part of the great tradition of Methodist Circuit riding and served two churches. When I described our ministries they were very interested in the good works aspect of church life. We talked until the rain subsided. They got out their cigarettes (I would not let them smoke on the porch), thanked us profusely, and said they hoped their ride would find them at the laundromat. Their fear was gone.
We learn not to talk about the good things we do. I do not believe in boasting and bragging. I believe we should talk up the good things churches and church people do. How else will the people of the world know Christians care?