In church, all of us can play our role in welcoming newcomers and visitors.
An important aspect of Chinese New Year celebration is hospitality. That is, we welcome guests who visit by serving them tea and titbits. In addition, they can stay for lunch or dinner if they wish. The writer to the Hebrews said Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
It seems that in the early church, the concept of hospitality referred to welcoming strangers into the community. Such an attitude of openness and generosity to others is reflected in the way Paul sent Tychicus and Onesimus to the Colossians (Col 4:7-9) to share his news and encourage them. Implicit here is the understanding that the Colossian believers would take care of these brothers, house them, feed them and provide for their needs for the duration of their stay, which could last for several months.
The practice of hospitality was the hallmark of the early church and contributed to her rapid expansion throughout the Roman world. The early Christians’ acts of hospitality went beyond caring for strangers and foreigners – they were also known to care for the poor, the least and the vulnerable in society. No doubt they were mindful of Jesus’ words in the parable of the sheep and the goats, I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home… when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me (Matthew 25:31- 46).
Hospitality need not be elaborate or tiring. Recalling the first time we spent Chinese New Year in Cambodia. We had only arrived in the field a few weeks earlier. Then the other missionaries invited us out for lunch. We went to a local hamburger shed right next door to a petrol kiosk. We were touched that they had done this for us.
These days in modern Singapore, we may be somewhat wary of inviting total strangers into our homes. However, in church, all of us can play our role in welcoming newcomers and visitors. People today are hungry for authentic relationships. Let us seek to create an environment where that can take place in church this Chinese New Year.
By Rev Philip Lim