THE PEOPLE WERE SKEPTICAL of “Brandon” from the first moment he stepped on the church campus.
Maybe it was because he seemed overly excited to be attending Sunday service. Maybe it was because he introduced himself to everyone by giving them a big hug. Maybe it was because of how he worshipped by standing in the aisles with his arms wide open.
Regardless of the reasons, their skepticism was validated a few Sundays later: As Brandon sat down at the beginning of service, his pant leg got caught on a small device wrapped around his ankle, a device with a small but steadily blinking red light.
Details quickly spilled out. Brandon was a former convict who had recently been released on parole. He had met Christ in prison and was determined to leave behind his former life of drugs and pimping.
The church didn’t know how to react to this discovery, but they were determined to try to accept him. Brandon seemed genuinely changed, and besides — who better to reflect the grace and hope of Jesus Christ than one whose life exhibited such a dramatic change from darkness to light?
Who better to reflect the grace and hope of Jesus Christ than one whose life exhibited such a dramatic change from darkness to light?
As weeks went by, Brandon continued to show up to Sunday service. So when the leader of small groups was asked if an invitation would be extended to Brandon, he confessed that he had some reservations.
Small groups met at his home, the place where his wife and young kids slept at night. What might happen if Brandon was not what he seemed? Moving small groups to church was also not a possibility — everyone loved meeting at his home.
Although the church wanted to embrace Brandon, they struggled with what that actually meant.
In this issue, we have some difficult stories of generosity and hospitality, concepts that are central to the Christian faith but often very difficult to practice in our lives. It’s one thing to exhibit generosity when we’re fighting over who pays the bill after having lunch with a friend. It’s another thing entirely to see hospitality as a matter of life and death, which if undemonstrated, might cause harm to befall someone.
Our homes are some of our most precious possessions. They represent some of our greatest monetary and emotional investments and are often the only place where we feel completely safe and comfortable.
Yet, inviting others into this space is often one of the most difficult things to do. We clean our houses, lay out some slippers, and hide the things we don’t want to share with others.
When we’re showing grace to others, when we welcome others to our home, how much do we hold back? Maybe, just maybe, how much we share with others reflects how much we think Christ shares with us. And maybe, we can learn to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.
Brandon, wherever you are today, I pray that someone opened their home to you.