|The lighted candle: a hallmark of welcome|
Earlier in Matthew 10, we see Jesus’ instructions on how to receive hospitality- we are to let our “peace come upon” the house. If there is inhospitality, “let your peace return to you.” (Matthew 10:12-13) I do not control another’s reaction or response. I can, however, control my own. I can redirect the interaction or leave it with my peace intact. Shaking off the dust (Matthew 10:140) means to let it end non-violently-without harmful words or actions.
How to offer hospitality to others? Jesus' words in Matthew 10:40-42 probably reflect the guidance that the earliest house churches would have received. The one being welcomed comes in the name of another who is respected. In some cases, the person needing the welcome was accompanied with a letter from another disciple or apostle, such as Paul. The letter could come with words like “We are on the same team. Welcome them as you would welcome me.” Such directives were given by Paul to the Philippians, asking them to welcome both Timothy and Epaphroditus. (Philippians 2:19-30)
The act of offering hospitality in the name of Christ is as simple as offering a cup of water. I offer another the benefit of my attention. Emerson wrote, “A friend is someone with whom I may be myself, with whom I may think aloud.” There are various levels of familiarity and friendship with others. I cannot be a “best friend” to everyone I meet, but I can offer a simple, meaningful welcome to others who cross my path. I can choose to let go of the time and energy I spend with other pursuits so there is space for another. In welcoming another into my space, I encounter the living Christ, the true reward that Jesus promises. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35