“Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13b (NLT)
“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
- Take a few minutes to call your prayer partner today. If you are having a hard time connecting to pray together, schedule a time and keep it short. If you’re already in that habit, consider planning a longer phone call or a time to get together. Discuss prayers and praises.
- Find a quiet place to meet with God. Avoid distractions by keeping your area clear, turning your phone on airplane or night mode, and first praying that God will give you wisdom and speak to you through your study.
- Read James 2:14-26, writing verses 14-17 in your journal. Highlight or underline verse 17: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Love Thy Neighbor…with Parties & Tasty Treats
I have a confession to make: I do not take rejection well. I avoid people who I expect will judge me, and when that’s not possible, I keep them at arm’s length. This is especially true when it comes to my faith in God; it impacts everything about me from the way I perceive the world to the way I raise my children to the way I spend my free time. I don’t need everyone in my life to agree with me, but if someone looks down on me for my religion, they are insulting the very core of who I am. Hence, my sensitivity and self-centeredness have stood between me and the charge to “go into all the world” (Mark 16:15). I realize that I can’t love or minister to people very well if I have built a wall between us, so I want to make an intentional effort to step out of my comfort zone and set aside my own feelings and fears of rejection.
In Matthew 16:18 (ESV), Jesus says, “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church].” Gates are not an offensive weapon; the gates of Hell are a defense against the army of God. Satan is trying to keep us from realizing and sharing the peace, love, and salvation that are readily available to all. The gates of hell aim to separate the people who are led by the Spirit of God from those who need His Light, but Matthew 16:18 tells us that God will not allow this segregation to remain indefinitely. God’s desire is for all of us to love and respect one another, even those who are lost or different, just as Jesus did. We as Christ-followers should reach out in love instead of feeding into Satan’s plan by staying within our comfort zones and focusing inward.
You don’t have to hold in-house Bible studies or become well-versed in apologetics to turn people to God. You can show people that God is love simply by inviting them into your imperfect life and loving them, putting your desire to know them above your desire to be perceived in a certain way. Be an example of how God calls us to love. Live differently by opening your heart and your home at a time when many people don’t even know their neighbors and find it easier to do life alone.
The holiday season offers plenty of low-pressure opportunities to do this by inviting friends, distant family, and neighbors into our homes to get to know them and serve them with love. Christmastime is probably the one time of year when you can put up some Christ-centered décor, play Jesus-music, and invite over a group of believers and unbelievers alike without making anyone feel uncomfortable. Your agnostic neighbors may not be moved to tears by the sound of “Silent Night,” but at least they’re comfortable with the tune.
My dad used to say that life would be easy without the people! I can be a good neighbor: keep my lawn cut and dandelion-free, give out the good candy on Halloween, and remove my Christmas lights promptly on New Year’s Day. However, God has a higher standard of “good,” and it’s entirely relational. Set aside the insignificant tasks and petty conflicts so you can focus on loving those around you. Satan wants to use your insecurities and fears to keep you stagnant, so resist that urge and step out of your comfort zone. If you only reach out to new friends when your house is spotless and you’ve made plenty of Christmas treats, you may never get to know them. Part of loving people
in spite of their flaws is showing your own inadequacies and trusting them to accept you as you are.
Blessings and Love,
Questions to Ponder
- Do the people around you know you’re a Christian? If not, why? How can you live in a way that sets you apart?
- Consider your community (your neighborhood, your workplace, or your children’s school, for example). How well do you really know those people? How can you make an effort to get to know them better?
- Is there anyone in that community who might need a friend? This person may be someone you tend to overlook. Ask God to show you who that person might be and how you can reach out to them. A simple card with a kind word or an invitation to Starbucks can be enough to start a new friendship or to brighten someone’s life.
Plan a Christmas party for your kids’ classmates, your neighbors, or some mom friends. Bonus for inviting new acquaintances or someone who is new to the neighborhood! Include at least a few people you wouldn’t normally invite.
In theory, I love throwing parties, but when I’m in a busy season and don’t have time to do something impressive, I’d rather just skip the extra work and tell myself I’ll do it next year. I have to push myself to expand my horizons and make the added effort, and I consider it a service to God.
Don’t put stress on yourself by trying to make everything perfect or by trying to make too much food. Just do what works best for you. Play Christmas hymns, serve simple treats, and just relax and get to know new friends.
If parties aren’t your thing, pray and ask God how you can branch out and get to know your neighbors and others in your community. Deliver Christmas cookies with a smile and a sweet card, or deliver gift cards if baking isn’t your forte. The point is to reach out and show hospitality and love, especially to those you wouldn’t normally consider (they may be the ones who need it the most).