Pastoral Pondering: Welcome a stranger as if he was Christ
Recently, as I walked down the street, I saw a man quite different from me. It was as if I could see into his soul and the difference was as a disfigurement to me; a scourge in need of removal. I could not handle it.
I approached him quickly and struck him in the face with my elbow. He staggered and bent over; I raised my knee into his face and blood gushed from his nose. He fell and I landed on his side. I lifted my fist and descended it hard, again and again, into his eye socket. I dragged him to the curb by his hair and pressed his face to the warm, coarse concrete. Sweat dripped from my clinched jaw.
Then, I heard his weak voice mumble through his blood drenched lips an undiscernible sound. I didnt frankly care what he had to say, but it occurred to me I didnt know his name. So I said, Whats your name?
He spoke, but so softly I couldnt catch it. I yelled again, Whats your name? and lowered my head close to his lips. I heard a gurgled, Jesus.
Strength vacated my once violent hands and I fell back to the asphalt. In that moment I knew, it was not he that was disfigured, but my very own, biased and arrogant soul.
Ancient Christians believed that when welcoming a stranger (someone strange to you for reasons of ethnicity, economics, politics, beliefs, etc.) a Christian should welcome them as if they were Christ. These Christians hospitality to pagans, sinners, and saints alike is renowned.
As we enter another political season bound to be full of differences of ideology, theology, policy and frivolity, let us welcome those strange to us as Christ himself. May we never, as has too often been our custom, beat the stranger with our attitude, harass them with our words, or crush them with our disinterest in who they really are.
Matthew Ingalls is pastor at River Street Church of God