We find an interesting saying in the Jewish Talmud (one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism) about hospitality. One that I really like!
Let thy house be wide open, and let the poor be the children of thy house.
Hospitality in Bible times was a sacred duty. Travel was slow and tedious. And often dangerous. As we see in Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped a man after he’d been attacked by bandits.
It was important to give people a safe place to spend the night. Some Rabbis even suggested having four doors to a house, for welcoming travelers from all directions. And people were to hang a curtain over the door to show they still had room!
And travel, even today, is still dangerous in many places.
The refugees we help tell hair-raising accounts of their travels. Imprisonment, near starvation, beatings. Running for their lives through the streets. Often to have the little money they had stolen. Watching friends or family die. All the while wondering if they would make it through.
These people arrive here in a state of shock. Usually wearing only the clothes on their backs. Unable to speak the language. And in need of everything.
These people, like so many everywhere, need a good neighbor.
Some are often quite different from us. Different nations, languages, religions. And with the threat of terrorism all around us, how can we know if one of them might not have terrorism in mind? We can’t.
But the question comes to us, “What would Jesus do?”
He had, in a certain sense, a terrorist in his midst. Well, not really a terrorist. But a traitor, who betrayed him with a kiss. Yet what did he do?
As the time for his arrest drew near, Christ treated Judas the same as the others. Even knowing what he was about to do. He ate with him, from the same dish they all dipped their bread in. The plate Judas had just stuck his fingers in.
And during the meal, he served them by washing their feet. Even Judas’ dirty feet. Can’t you just picture him tenderly bending over those travel weary feet, praying even then that Judas would have a change of heart? I can, because he has shown me such tenderness when I’ve done wrong.
The influx of immigrants and refugees around the world, combined with rising terrorist threats, is changing borders.
It’s turning worlds upside down. Yours, and ours. And if we’re not careful, we’ll allow fear, mistrust, and suspicion to guide our thoughts and actions.
But fear does not come from God. He gives strength and the wisdom to ask, “What would Jesus do?”
Just as in Bible days, travel is often still perilous. And in this dangerous world people still seek refuge. And these people, even our potential enemies, need a good neighbor. And isn’t that what Jesus would be to them?