Growing up I switched schools 13 times. I know a lot of people that did a whole more than me but the point is… I knew what it was like to feel like an outsider. Most years I was the new kid in school. I got frustrated at one point & requested homeschool but my mom made me work way harder than any public school ever did so that didn’t last long. I distinctly remember the feeling of walking into a school filled with people who all seemed to know each other for years. I remember the self-conscious feeling that I didn’t belong. I hated lunch because I spent so many meals looking for someone to sit with. I was always thankful for the kids who were open to that.
Flash forward to adulthood & I still face this dilemma often. I have often been the new person in a meeting, in a church, in a group of friends, at a party where I only know the host. I’m relatively outgoing but I am ALWAYS thankful when someone initiates a conversation with me. I am always thankful when someone acts like I belong; when someone asks me to sit near them, when someone engages me in a group conversation so I’m not standing awkwardly on the outside looking for a place to jump in.
I made a decision as a middle schooler, entering a new school for the first time yet again. I made the decision to never forget what it feels like to be an outsider. I decided this because I came home from school & mentioned to my mom that some kids had asked me to sit with them. My mom said that they probably knew what it was like to be the new kid & wanted to welcome me. I always wanted to be that person.
But it’s easy to forget. Sometimes I get so busy with my daily grind, talking to people I know, that I forget to include others. Sometimes I have so many things on my mind that I forget to intentionally reach out to the stranger in the midst of my usual routine or group of friends or church community.
The Gospel Welcomes Us & Teaches Us How to Welcome Others
But Jesus stands as our example in this area yet again.
Consider the story of the Samaritan woman. She was an outcast of Jewish society & appears to be an outcast even of Samaritan society as she comes to the well alone (rather than with all the other women) during the day (when no one else came).
She was an outsider. Christ approached her & engaged in conversation. His disciples returned & were shocked to see this happening. They had forgotten what it felt like to be an outsider. They had forgotten that they were once looking into a relationship with Christ & unable to attain it. They had forgotten that they were once at enmity with the God they now loved.
This woman still needed to be brought into relationship. Christ didn’t assume she had nothing to offer, He didn’t ignore her, make her feel small, or less important than her friends. He saw who she was & He reached out in love to this stranger.
Wouldn’t our churches benefit from this approach? “Hi! How are you? Are you new around here? You’re welcome to sit with me! Want to go to lunch after?” Wouldn’t our neighborhoods benefit as well? “Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood. Here are a few things I grew in my garden. I live in that house right down the road. Would love to get together. Stop over anytime!”
Don’t forget what it’s like to be the stranger. Don’t forget that Christ welcomed you when you were His enemy. Don’t forget. Treat someone else with that kind of respect.
Have you been welcomed this way? How do you welcome others?