Strangers No More
I once ended up with nine strangers in my home for dinner.
It all started a few days before Thanksgiving. My husband was scheduled to work a shift at the hospital, so I made plans to spend the holiday with a friend who would also be on her own. As I was online trying to figure out exactly how to roast a turkey, I read a comment in a Facebook group I belonged to. The writer, a recent transplant to our city, was venting some frustration. Her husband, also in the medical field, needed to study for a test on Thanksgiving, and she was dreading spending the holiday alone with her two kids.
As soon as I read her words, a thought occurred to me: I should invite her to spend Thanksgiving with us. Almost immediately though, my mind was flooded with reasonable counterpoints: It could be awkward. She’ll think the offer is weird. My house isn’t big enough for more kids. It won’t be a restful holiday anymore. It will cost more money to feed more people.
I went rounds in my mind. The practice of extending hospitality to strangers does not come easily to me, and more often than not I have chosen to prioritize my own comfort levels or time. But my initial conviction was clear. Before I could talk myself out of it, I invited her family to spend the day in our home. To my surprise, she accepted. A few days later, she asked if her friends and their three kids, also without family nearby, could join us too. My Thanksgiving menu was about to serve nine people I had never met.
Culturally, this decision can be a radical one. According to the world, it is good to protect our time, resources, and personal space—making sure to fill ourselves up before we pour any energy into others, let alone a stranger on the internet.
The Bible shows us a different way.
Twice in the New Testament “hospitality” can be defined as “love to strangers.” When Paul tells us in Romans 12:13 to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality,” he’s instructing us to be generous to people we have never met. In Hebrews 13:1-2, the author puts it like this: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Hospitality isn’t an optional extension of our Christian faith, and this includes the command to be generous toward people we don’t know.
Furthermore, this commitment to love strangers paints a picture of the Gospel—a living example of the grace God has shown us. In Leviticus 19:33-34, God gives the Israelites instructions about how they ought to live, and He tells them, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
When we extend kindness to a stranger, we are living examples of the heart of the Gospel story. We were all once strangers, and yet, through Christ, God made a way to bring us into His family. In Ephesians 2:12-13, Paul says it like this: “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
The directive is clear: You were all once strangers. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,” Paul continues in Ephesians 5:1-2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
My house was a wreck after everyone left that Thanksgiving. The sink was full of dishes, there was crayon on the walls in the living room, and every bucket of toys had been dumped out in our basement playroom. As I sat on the couch that night with a piece of pumpkin pie I didn’t have time to eat earlier, I was exhausted but also grateful. Kingdom investments like hospitality are paradoxical like this: When you spend your life for another, that’s when you find it.
I didn’t see those nine people again, but I resolved that day to continually look for ways I could meet the needs of strangers around me. This has played out in many different ways—lunch invitations after church, an exchange of phone numbers at the library, a simple message on Instagram—and in every case, I find I have to make a choice to lean into that initial conviction rather than talk myself out of it.
The choice to welcome strangers into your life might be uncomfortable. It might leave crayon marks on your walls. It will likely require sacrifice, but if your heart is joyful in service, this kingdom work will always honor God.
We were all once strangers, but God, in His lavish grace, makes us members of His household both now and forever. As stewards of this gift and givers of hospitality, what an opportunity we have to show the strangers among us the kind of hope we have been invited to in Christ.