I read an interesting anecdote by Joani Schultz the Chief Creative Officer of Group Publishing.
This is what happened (in her own words)…
A crazy rumor erupted on our wedding anniversary cruise.
Before we even boarded, a just-met passenger whispered, “The new CEO who just purchased this cruise line is a passenger!”
Of course, my head swiveled around to see if I could spot the big-wig.
As the week went on, rumors flew like the norovirus. Who is the CEO? Where is that VIP? Are they dining among us “little people”?
One night, a passenger even turned to me and asked, “Are you the CEO?” By this time, if someone stooped to ask if I was the undercover boss, I knew people were desperate.
Mystery. Not. Solved.
During the week, I didn’t mind the attention and care the staff lavished on us passengers. Until I thought: They do not know who the dignitary is. Are they covering their kindness bases just in case the new owner was one of us?
It was a case of “hedging your bets.” Better treat everyone like the new CEO (just in case). I really want to know if the quality plummeted for the people on the next cruise!
I couldn’t help but think about the church and how we treat others who are “checking us out.” Do we treat them like angels from heaven or do we steer clear and look for the people we know?
The author of Hebrews reminds us to always be full of love and not just with the people we know.
Keep on loving each other as sisters and brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:1-2
The author is reminding us of Abraham’s hospitality towards the three divine visitors in Genesis 18 and possibly even the hospitality Lot (Abraham’s nephew) extended to the two angels in Genesis 19.
When we gather to worship (or adjourn from worship) we should treat everyone as if they are a guest from God to be welcomed because we too are messengers of God’s love.
Jesus half-brother James was very clear on this point in a letter he wrote to the church.
My sisters and brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a person comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the person wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor person, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4
It doesn’t have to be the “rich/poor” comparison. It can be anything… including people we know versus people we don’t know.
Let us continue to seek those who are craving connection to Christ and to us. If people are brave enough to come to church not knowing anyone, let us be brave enough to welcome them in the Name of Jesus.