The Stranger We Need

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Sometimes A Stranger Is An Attitude, Not A Person

by Eric Elkin

And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
— Luke 10:6

It was a dark and rainy night as a group of us drove through a wealthy neighborhood in Bronxville, NY. We were looking for the apartment of a friend, but none of us in the car were familiar with this community. The only tools at our disposal was a paper map and an address.

Adding to the difficulty of our search, the weight of rain made the trees hang low over the road. So low, they blocked the view of street signs and the numbers on the houses. The mood in the car grew tense with every wrong turn. We were lost, and unless someone took action, nothing was going to change.

Knowing the apartment was in the upper level of a family dwelling, we stopped in front of a house we thought might be it. I ran up to the front door and rang the bell. An angry man answered the door. He started yelling at me before I could get a word out of my mouth. His one hand was waving me away, the other was holding a baseball bat. Retreat seemed the best option.

I said to him, “Jesus loves you,” but my blessing was filled with more sarcasm than compassion. Other types of words, more authentic to what I was feeling, filled my head as I walked back to the car. Our group was shocked when I shared the story with them. How could anybody be so rude?

Later the next day, I thought about the event from the home owner’s perspective. Who comes to a house and rings the bell at night in the pouring rain? Even Jehovah Witnesses take a break during these type of conditions. A friend would have called ahead of time. Only thieves and ignorant church workers would knock on a door at night in the rain.

True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.
— Henri Nouwen

Now that I am older and have entered many homes, there is something about that night, which remains true of most houses. The guests we welcome into our house are people we know. In the Midwest, even friends need a formal invitation from the homeowner before they are appropriately received into a home. Typically, people do not welcome strangers into their house for good reasons.

Regardless of how and who we receive in our homes, it was apparent, the man who greeted me did not know peace. A person who knows peace could answer a door without a baseball bat and still keep their family and property safe. Having worked with thousands of people, I know many families do not know peace. I don’t need to go around knocking on doors to prove it. 

Communities across the nation are easily divided by opposing views from everything to politics to religion to social norms. Families are fractured by a sense of time and a diminishing grasp of managing it. Our bodies and minds are broken from a sense of spiritual health.

In the reading, the peace Christ calls his disciples to share is a sense of wholeness. The kind of peace which reaches down into the complex nature of our lives and brings order out of the chaos. This kind of peace is more than an absence of conflict. It is something that gives life. Sometimes the stranger we need to welcome is an attitude which helps produce peace.

To the fractured soul, humility is a stranger. To the anxious heart, patience is a foreign threat. To the threatened person, the thought of bearing another in love is an unfamiliar person knocking at the door. Maybe as you read this you might consider welcoming in this type of stranger. It just may help you discover peace.

Click to read Luke 10: 1-11

Reflection Questions:

  • Who is the stranger you need to welcome in?

  • What can this stranger bring to you?

  • Where is your life most fractured and where is it most whole?

  • How can you help others develop a welcoming heart?

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