Warm/ welcoming/ personable – This attitude is experienced when you first meet someone or pass someone on the street, the park, or at the grocery store. This person is usually looking up, attentive to their surroundings, and carries with them a smile and a sense of wanting to know you.
We have all met those people who know you and possess this innate attitude of genuine joy when you are with them. It is that person who greets you with a smile when you show up at the party and who makes you feel like you are the most honored guest every time.
Or it is that old lady who greets you in the store and carries the persona that life is good and everything is in order and your meeting in the cereal aisle was what the Lord had designed for the both of you that day. You walk by with this overwhelming desire deep down in your gut to walk by her again on the next aisle, just to feel that warmth and acceptance again.
Or maybe you have been that person who shows up at an event and you are nervous and all your energy is being sucked up in trying to suppress an anxiety attack while asking questions like: “Is this the right place?” “Why did I come? I don’t really fit in here.” “Is there anyone here I know?” Then in the midst of this terrible experience someone gives you the most warm and welcoming smile from across the room and then the next thing you know is, they are standing next to you, inviting you into the fold.
Do you remember the feelings and emotions you experienced during all or any of those moments? Have you felt the relief when that crushing desire to just run away is instantly transformed into a calmness and peace? The anxiety falls away and a new confidence of who you are erupts out of your inner being like a sprout of a seed breaking through the dirt and soaking up the warmth of the sun for the first time. You go from feeling little and weak to being strong and confident, and all this happens in the blink of an eye.
You wonder to yourself what just happened, but there is no time to unpack it. You just move forward into relationship with this person no matter how deep it goes or how long it lasts. You find yourself on the other side of the coin desiring more of what that person has to offer.
In your daily life, you will most likely cross paths with more people you don’t know well than people who you do know well. In those moments you have two choices. Look down and walk on by or be that person who is remembered as “the one who brightened their day.”
The difference is divided in a split second. You might be reading this and realize that you naturally are this person who brings warmth to those around you. On the other hand, you might consider yourself shy or introverted. You might think that this characteristic is just impossible because of the way you are. I will say that for some people, this does come more as a natural response, but that does not let the rest of us off the hook.
Take for instance these verses from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As you read it, look for any indication that He was speaking only to those outgoing people of our world.
Matthew 5: 43-48 - “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
One of the first characteristics of loving your neighbor, or being a hospitable person, stems from these verses and many others throughout God’s story. It is this challenge and responsibility for us who call ourselves Christians to love everyone. To look up and welcome others into our space and life. It is our challenge to look up, and become someone who is welcoming, warm, and personable. Say hello to those you don’t know as well as those you do know. Greet all people with a genuine smile.
I have an uncle whom I have had the opportunity to watch for many years and I am constantly amazed at his ability to make anyone and everyone feel completely welcomed and wanted no matter who they are or what their background. He possesses this incredible ability to make you feel like the party was specifically designed for you. I have seen him recognize and welcome the most shy and fearful people into a relationship with himself that absolutely transforms who that person is and how they view themselves. Thinking about him as I write about hospitality, I have realized that he doesn’t do anything special or extraordinary. He just simply lives his life with his head up, looking for those who are on the outskirts and simply greets them with genuine joy and invites them to be a part of whatever he is doing.
I will talk more later about the power of the invite, but what I want you to consider here is the idea that being warm and welcoming can be done by anyone, anywhere. It is a simple awareness of where you are and who is around you. Then when you see that person who is standing alone or that person you don’t know well, make the effort to simply walk over and say hello. There is great power in a simple hello! Then simply invite that person into what you are doing. You don’t have to create some pristine environment or possess a well-devised plan for this friendship. Just invite them into your space. They may turn you down, but know this… they still experienced your warmth and welcome and that is what you are responsible to do.
How do we learn to do this? Stand up straight and remember how God’s grace greets us each and everyday. Remember that we were strangers to God and yet He was willing to leave His place of comfort, joy, and peace and come to this wretched place so that we could be welcomed into the wedding feast. So we could enjoy the kingdom and receive an invitation to become heirs of the King! Is there joy that empowers you to reach out because of what you have received from Jesus? Does God’s welcome to you cause your head to lift up and your face to smile? Where does the courage and the motivation to be welcoming to strangers come from? When we need help, we can ask Christ. What we have freely received from Him, we can freely give to others.
So as you walk through your day… look up, greet those you know, and greet those you don’t. It’s not as hard as you think, and you will be amazed at the new insights and friends you glean along the way.