The basketball game ended late and as we exited the gym it had turned dark, cold, snowy and windy—a blizzard. Our family of 5 was not dressed for it and we were complete strangers in this small Western Kansas town. A blizzard on the plains is not just nasty it is often deadly. The town had no motels back then and even if it had, we couldn’t have paid for a room. What to do? I have since wondered more than once if the family who extended our family of strangers a “port in the storm” were God’s angels.
At least they must have heard the scriptural admonition that by entertaining strangers some have hosted angels without knowing it. (Heb. 13:2) Abraham did that in Genesis 18 with the 3 men, one of whom may have been the Lord himself. (v. 22) Lot also showed great hospitality to the 2 angels. (Genesis 19)
There are many other examples of hospitality in both the Old and New Testaments. Besides Abraham and Lot, the kindness of David to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul is noteworthy. David had him eat at the palace table like one of his own sons and made sure he had servants and received income from the crops of Saul’s former lands. (2Sa. 9:3-12) Another example is the Shunammite woman and her husband who made a room on the roof for Elisha the Prophet. (2Ki. 6:8-11)
In the 1st Century church we see the believers selling their possessions to give to anyone who had need. They also opened their homes to have meals for their fellow Christians. We assume many of these were part of the God-fearing Jews from other nations who made up some of the 3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:5,38)
Consider the citizens of the island of Malta on which the shipwreck of the vessel that carried the Apostle Paul and 275 other souls grounded. They were a remarkable example of hospitality to these total strangers. They took in all these people, fed and cared for them for 3 months and then furnished their needs as they left for Rome.
There are many verses in the New Testament telling us to practice hospitality (1Pe. 4:9) (3 John 8) (Rom. 12:13) and one particular individual who is praised by name by Paul—Gaius (Rom. 16:23) for doing it. In an age where we have so much more of everything, one wonders if we are still willing to practice this commandment?
My grandma and later my mother used to say to me and my brothers—”If you can’t help, at least don’t hinder.” That was good advice then, and I suspect it is probably a universal precept for all ages for all times. Unfortunately, most of us are very slow learners since it is so much easier to analyze and criticize than to prioritize and energize.
As Christians we need to realize that one of Satan’s favorite tactics is to throw impediments into our life and hope we’ll pass them on to those who are trying to be zealous for Christ. Impediments are also called obstructions, hindrances and obstacles and can take many forms.
It seems as if Jesus’ ministry here on earth was continually being invaded by impediments from Satan and his dupes. The Apostles even contributed at times. Instead of recognizing that the children people were bringing to Jesus to have him touch them were precious, they rebuked their parents. Jesus was INDIGNANT and told the Apostles not to hinder them, “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these…” (Mk 10:13-15) They also tried to stop a man who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name, but Jesus declared, “…for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:39-40) Peter had to be rebuked when he tried to dissuade Christ from fulfilling his mission. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me…”(Mt 16:23) Judas, who had been a major impediment in the matter of money, proved to be a huge impediment due to his betrayal—Then Satan entered Judas…(Lk 22:3)
When we are given great opportunities and teachable moments, we can sometimes thwart them by our objections and negative vibes. No doubt this can be caused by a desire to defend the Lord and the gospel. We can err through lack of knowledge or even just wanting to show our superior knowledge. I have often felt myself slipping into that mind-set either by thought or words. God forbid that we would frustrate the will of Jesus by our neglect, objections or actions. Jesus might be INDIGNANT with us.
As I sat with the 3 Mayan brothers/preachers at an outdoor café in a plaza in Tizimin, Mexico, I did not expect my heart to be broken in just a few minutes.
As we talked and laughed while enjoying our coca-colas, a bus pulled up across the street. Then I saw it, a woman stepped off with what looked at first like a heavy package on her back. It wasn’t! It was a young man who had a severe disability and obviously had to be carried everywhere. I asked the preachers if they knew who they were. They said that the mother always comes to the bus stop on certain days and then carries her son to a corner where they beg. Then she carries him back to the stop for a long ride to a small Mayan village outside the city.
I was immediately deeply touched and despite myself began to cry. It was strangely a mixture of grief and pity and even some disbelief. I felt the Mayan churches would see such a profound need and try to help them. After composing myself I asked the preachers if Northwest and the brethren there could buy the family a wheelchair. They agreed to make sure the family got it and shortly thereafter the always kind and generous Christians at Northwest sent the funds.
The chair was purchased and the mother no longer had to carry her son everywhere.
Later when I analyzed my feelings it became clear that my tears and the preachers seeming unconcern were due to the idea that we must take care of our brethren first and foremost. We had read the verse that says, “…do good to all people, ESPECIALLY to those who belong to the family of believers.” ( Gal 6:10) And the one that reads “…do not forget to do good and share with others…” ( Heb 13:16) We had probably emphasized the brethren, to the extent of neglecting the ALL people. I also recognized my oblivious and selfsatisfied attitude and needed Christ to break my heart.
I have always wished I could have been there to see the faces of the mother and son and watch the hope and joy they were experiencing. The Mayan preacher told me how grateful and happy they were and we all experienced a great spiritual growth in Christ. Who would think that a wheelchair, albeit a primitive one, could do so much?