Jesus always struck this unique balance between exclusivism and inclusivism. In John 14:6 he says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” and his ministry focuses primarily on spending time with the hookers, the diseased, the outcasts, and the poor. Some of us are better at imitating this than others; reaching out just comes naturally. To some of us, though, it frightens us to death. We’d much rather just stay home. Actually…that can have its benefits, too.
I realized about a year ago that we (my family) didn’t really know anyone in our neighborhood. I took piano lessons from one lady on our street, so I knew her, and then there were several families we’d exchange the usual pleasantries with, but one day I realized we’d never actually had anybody on our street over for dinner. What better way to show love to others than to open up your home to them? I mean, think about this: it’s one thing if you call up your neighbor and say, “Hey, would you like to join us out to eat somewhere?” That’s still pretty impersonal. But to open your house to them and cook them food is a great way to communicate love. You’re being pretty vulnerable that way—inviting basically a stranger into your house for dinner. It’s quite the oxymoron that we call these people that live next door to us neighbors when really for most of us…they’re not.
This could be hard because maybe some of our neighbors make us uncomfortable (but then again, following Christ is not about being comfortable). Maybe they’re awkward, aren’t talkative, are too talkative, reclusive, obnoxious, etc. Hey, all you have to do is invite them over; it’s up to them to accept or decline.
Why is this important? Because we’re supposed to reach out to the people close around us. Where we are is not an accident. God has put us in specific places and in specific circles of people because He has some weird plan in light of those placements. If we disregard those which He has placed us around and among, we are ignoring one of our most basic callings. What if everyone on your street or in your building became close with you, knowing they could depend on you because you love and care for them? What if they could see something in you that they struggle to find in other people?
If the only people we ever have over to our houses or apartments are people from our churches, then our homes are having very little impact. Fellowship with other believers is good, don’t get me wrong, but if that’s all that’s taking place around the dinner table, there’s a problem. We shouldn’t make excuses, either, saying things like, “Well, I’m not very good at making conversation.” That’s easily fixable. Just ask people their story. If they’re not very talkative, either, then ask them to start from the beginning. Childhood and all that. I think we’d be surprised at the things we’d learn about our neighbors, things we never knew. In fact, I know we would. Consider, too, it’s only upon welcoming people with open arms that we begin to make a difference, for it is only upon gaining someone’s trust that they will give us the time of day when we want to bring faith-focused questions into the conversations. We won’t bring a stranger to Christ; it’s an encounter generated by a friendship—a privilege that has to be earned.