Text: Matthew 10:40-42
As I read the New Testament it appears from all those who knew Jesus, wrote about him, or heard about him from someone else, there were very few things more important in his life than developing and practicing a theology of welcome. I would go so far as to say that above all of Jesus’ theological presuppositions, it is a theology of welcome or hospitality that most clearly defines his mission and ministry. Many of the narratives found in each of the four gospels center around Jesus’ teachings about what it means to welcome someone, to include them, to show hospitality. Before there was healing, there was a welcome. Before a miracle, there was a welcome. He welcomed sinners and outcasts to join him at the table to eat. He welcomed the little children, those considered by the culture to be invisible, to come to him. And he welcomed the women in his life, also a cultural boundary not to be crossed, to sit with him and discuss things of importance.
But it’s not just the Second Testament or Jesus that emphasizes the importance of offering welcome and showing hospitality. The theme of welcome and hospitality is woven throughout the biblical narrative like an unbreakable thread that holds together people of faith from generation to generation. Beginning in the first book of the Bible as God appeared to Abraham by the oaks at Mamre, our faith story starts shaping a theology of welcome. There in Genesis 18 as God passed by Abraham’s tent, Abraham welcomed the stranger with the words, “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves…” A theology of welcome rooted in small gestures.
In Exodus this theme of welcome and hospitality continues as it looks inward. In chapter 23 we read, “You shall not oppress a resident stranger, you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” At some point in time, each of us has been the one looking for welcome. And we are reminded in Exodus of what it feels like to need words and gestures of welcome, for “we all have been the stranger.”
From Genesis to Revelation, the biblical narrative continues to build a theology of welcome.