Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I don’t know what you think about labels like that. I suppose they might be helpful in reminding us that many of us have different personalities. My concern is when they become excuses.
For example, how should we respond to the stranger?
If you knew me before I knew Jesus you would know that I did not move toward the stranger. I was happy to be with people I knew and did not really like being around people I didn’t.
But then God saved me.
And you know one thing that happened on that day? I died. The old Josh whose life was first about what he wanted and what he liked and what made him comfortable died. And I was raised to a new life. Christ.
Christ is now my life.
And He’s your life too if you are a Christian.
When you are saved, something happens and this is one way the Bible describes it. You died. You have been raised with Christ. Your life is Christ. That’s not just something that is true of some Christians. That’s true for every Christian. That’s reality. But we have to live that reality. We died and were given a new life, so we have to daily die and make Christ our life.
But, how do we do that?
One way we do that is by making Christ’s attitude towards others our attitude.
The new standard for how we relate to strangers is not our particular personality but how Jesus calls us to relate to them, and He’s very clear. Jesus calls believers to be hospitable. That means we are to love the stranger. It’s not optional.
Now make sure you understand what this means exactly.
Because, when we talk about loving the stranger, we’re not talking about just being nice. We are talking about pursuing people we don’t know to show the love of Christ to them. Really, we’re talking about applying the gospel to our social relationships. As someone’s put it, “Many Christians see Jesus as a personal moral example (and rightly so), but not as a social example. But why not? When you become a Christian, your social life, how you interact with others, should change also.” After all, God’s been so hospitable with us. Think about the sacrifices He made to make us part of His family. We want to make sacrifices to bring those on the outside to the inside, to help those who are strangers become friends, family even.
How could we start?
Here are a few suggestions:
1.) Preach the gospel to yourself every day. What keeps us from moving towards others? So often it’s fear of man or selfishness. Enjoying the gospel is a big part of how you overcome those sins.
2.) Don’t use feeling awkward as an excuse. There’s a lot of things we have to do as believers that doesn’t feel natural to us or seem normal to others. That shouldn’t surprise us. After all, as B.B. Warfield once wrote, “What seems more unnatural than that the God of the universe should become a servant in the world, ministering not to His Father only, but also to His creatures,—our Lord and Master washing our very feet? What more abhorrent than that God should die? There is no length to which Christ’s self-sacrifice did not lead Him. He who was in the form of God took such thought for us, that He made no account of Himself. Into the immeasurable calm of the divine blessedness He permitted this thought to enter, “I will die for men!” And so mighty was His love, so colossal the divine purpose to save, that He thought nothing of His divine majesty, nothing of His unsullied blessedness, nothing of His equality with God, but, absorbed in us,—our needs, our misery, our helplessness—He made no account of Himself. If this is to be our example, what limit can we set to our self-sacrifice?”
3.) Take advantage of church gatherings every week to practice hospitality. Come to church looking for a way to make someone you don’t know very well feel at home.
4.) Invite people you don’t know into conversations you are having with others. It’s good to come to church and talk with your friends. But as you do, see if you can open up that conversation to others you don’t know as well so they can become part of your circle of friends.
5.) Don’t underestimate the value of small gestures done in faith. Jesus talks about a cup of water given in his name. That doesn’t seem like much. But it matters to Him. It’s valuable. When you greet someone warmly, when you ask questions, when you try to make someone feel at home, your Father sees that and if you have done it because you know Jesus loves you and for His glory, it pleases Him and He will reward you.
6.) Have people that you don’t know well into your home for a meal. Your home is a place to rest, for sure. But it’s not just a place to rest. It’s a gift you have been given by God to use for the good of others. Your friends, sure. But not just those who are your friends right now. How can you use your home for the spiritual good of people you don’t know as well?
7.) Be hopeful. Think about all the amazing ways God can use a new relationship.
8.) Learn from people who are good at making others feel welcomed. Watch them. What do they do? How do they do it?
Obviously, we are all going to show hospitality a little bit differently. And that’s good. There are lots of different kinds of people out there. Some of us will be more effective with some, and others with others. That’s part of what makes it exciting to be part of a local church. A local church is a family on mission, and one part of the mission is to glorify Christ, by partnering together to show love to the stranger, even when it’s hard and requires us doing things we might not normally do.