Over the last couple of weeks, I have thought about a class that my wife, Kristen, and I took together at seminary called The Ministry of Hospitality. One of my former graduate professors, Dr. Christine Pohl, shares in one of her writings:
“In ancient times, hospitality was viewed as a pillar on which the moral structure of the world rested. It was a highly valued moral practice, seen as an important expression of kindness, mutual aid, neighborliness, and a response to the life of faith. Hospitality addressed the physical needs of strangers for food, shelter, and protection, but also included recognition of their worth and common humanity. It almost always involved shared meals; table fellowship was historically an important way of acknowledging the equal value and dignity of people.”
I recently heard an older Syrian woman say, “We are treated like animals!” I witnessed with my own eyes a few Hungarian people throwing firecrackers at innocent (“resting”) refugees – mainly women and children – at the railway station. I had the privilege to help other Christian brothers and sisters to be able to serve those who were in need. My wife and I also helped at the Serbian border to clean up the makeshift camp and remove trash, with the help of the Hungarian authorities. I was able to travel to Croatia with a group of missionaries to take some aid for the needy, working through a church in Croatia. These are some of the highlights of the help that we were able to show to those who are without hope.
As Christians, we have a great message to those who are without hope. We have Jesus Christ in our lives and hundreds of years of Christian heritage of the ministry of hospitality. Christians in Europe and the Christian world altogether have some serious decisions to make. We can decide to respond out of obligation and show our neighbors what it means to be bad hosts. Or we can choose to respond with hospitality because of our love for others, celebrating them as they are coming under the protection, care, and love of Christians in Europe. This will create an environment of equality where we can share love in a vulnerable way – sharing life together – so that others can see spiritual vitality and heritage in every action that is done in the name of Jesus Christ.
You may wonder, “How does cleaning up trash show hospitality?” Well, as Kristen and I worked with the rest of our team to remove trash, we created a place for people to have a clean environment. It helped reduce the potential for further sickness to break out in the camp because of the various germs it might produce. Perhaps you’ve wondered, “How does taking aid to Croatia help us, as missionaries in Hungary, show hospitality?” People have physical needs. Especially these days, when Europe is having colder weather and a rainier season. When we lend a hand in the name of Jesus, his name is exalted.
These are just some of the small ways that can show that each person matters and that they are loved as they pass through these European border countries for 24-48 hours. Every good action gives hope to the people who have traveled countless days and survived various perils. As we respond with love and vulnerability toward the refugees, they realize they are God’s creation and feel hope for the future. So many of the refugees are leaving countries that did not allow for freedom of religion. With our various acts hospitality, we became the extended hands and feet of Jesus. When we rub shoulders with the refugees, they rub shoulders with Jesus. When we love and care for them, they see the love and care of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They then have the freedom to respond to the message of hope the first time in centuries without serious ramifications.
But be ye warned, they are precious in the sight of the Father. He has sent his only Son for those who believe in him (John 3:16-21). We need to be diligent in our preparation to reach them with the message of hope in action and in words. This is not only a moral obligation, but it is a Christian obligation of the church. The kingdom of God is open and ready to receive those who want to come. We are mere vessels in the work of the Holy Spirit to lead them to a living relationship with the one, true God. Let us all seek our part in it! Let us be diligent in our supplication for their situation! Let us keep our Christian brothers and sisters in prayer who receive them and show them the light and hope of God while they are transitioning to a new world! Let us keep the refugees in our prayers as they have serious obstacles and difficulties that they can only overcome with the help of God! Let us beg for mercy that we do not miss the proper response in every interaction so that these people, who are loved by God, will see Jesus and the hope he can provide to them in this new world.