Dear Woodside… Love Strangers

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2, ESV)

The word we translate in English “hospitable” is one of my favorite Greek words in the Bible. Xenophilia— At its root this word means “love for strangers.” It’s the idea of embracing, welcoming, serving, and blessing those who are not known well or accepted. It is one of the most tangible expressions of kindness that we can give. It’s no surprise that the Bible talks about Christians being people that love strangers.

This concept often runs contrary to our upbringing. I was often told as a child not to talk to strangers, or take candy from them. Yet on Halloween I am going to let my kids walk around the neighborhood, talk to strangers, and take candy from them. Consistency, huh!

Apart from trick-or-treating however we don’t often converse or spend time with strangers at all. We don’t know them, they could be dangerous — or different! Loving people we don’t know is really difficult. It means more than a warm greeting, to really love a stranger means inviting them into your life and space and world. The Biblical concept of hospitality is more than inviting people you like and know over to your house for dinner — it’s a radical embrace of those who are different and unknown to you.

The writer of Hebrews encourages the church to “let brotherly love continue” and to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” The reason he gives for that is by referencing Abraham’s act of hospitality that ended up being a visitation from the Lord himself. Furthermore, our hospitality displays the gospel of Christ. Jesus loved us (strangers) and gave himself to us (dangerous people!) when we were not worthy of that love and grace. We reflect a hospitable (loving strangers) God by our hospitality to others.

I say all this to encourage us on towards further hospitality. This last week I was encouraged by several notes from newcomers to Woodside who experienced a “warm welcome” and found our embrace of them to be very welcoming. One of those notes came from a family that live across the street and came to the Trunk or Treat on Saturday. They returned because they felt loved! I’ve heard this sort of story frequently about our church.

I hope this encourages you because it made my heart smile and rejoice! I’ve been to cold, unwelcoming churches before and its hard to connect and listen and even know others. Thankfully, I do not see that here! I hope that you will, as we gather on Sunday mornings, lovingly welcome, serve, and bless those who are new and unknown among us. Stick around after the worship service and get to know those you don’t know. Come to the early service and grab a cup of coffee and meet people who are strangers to you. If you meet a new person invite them to have lunch with you after the service! We have much in common, in Christ, to give and to encourage and to share with one another. Thank you Woodside Bible Church for being a place that already loves strangers, may we grow and continue to excel in this way!

Prayer Update

Thanks for praying for Kelly and David Havrilla - please continue to do so. God gave them some amazing wisdom and Providentially acted on their behalf as they were making some important decisions. Please continue to pray for her healing and for wisdom for them.

This Sunday:

We are continuing our series on relationships this week by looking at James 4:1-10. You might wonder why you get into fights with other people so often. The Scripture profoundly speaks to how we can walk in love and harmony with others. I am excited to open God’s Word to us. As we gather we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper and singing together. Here’s this week’s song list that you can listen to on Spotify and be prepared for gathered worship:

  • Found in You
  • This I Believe
  • Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
  • Your Glory
  • Restore My Soul

Don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night. Otherwise you will show up an hour early to worship… and that’s okay too…

I am praying for you this weekend and am excited to be together Sunday morning to worship Christ. Thank you for being hospitable to those who are new among us. Let’s continue to grow and display Christ in that way.