The Gifts of Strangers Pt. 3

From Matt...

I’ve been presenting the value of honoring and welcoming the strangers, which is a key concept of asset-based community development. I want to end this series of posts with a parable from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25. In that story, Jesus is separating people into two groups: sheep and goats. What determines their place is how they responded to the “strangers” in their own community. Here is what is said to the sheep:

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Of key importance is noting that the entire list of those who were served: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, are all examples of the “stranger” in our own communities, AND we could certainly add more descriptions to that list.

At SoCe Life, we are practicing ABCD in the SoCe neighborhood because we care about our neighbors and because it feels like a wonderful way to honor the commandment of Jesus in this text and live out our faith. And I genuinely believe that when we strive to hear the marginalized in our community, we really could hear the voice of Christ (even though we probably won’t know it). And probably Jesus will challenge our assumptions about life, faith and who God is! I think I’ve experienced this, and it is completely worth it!  

The Gifts of Strangers Pt. 2

From Matt...

So, is this idea of welcoming and valuing the perspective and contributions of strangers (those who have been marginalized and labelled) a new radical concept? Not if you’ve grown up reading the Bible--ha! In the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah, we learn how Abraham welcomed unknown visitors and received an unexpected blessing. Here is the beginning of the story from Genesis 18:

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as [Abraham] sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

At this point in the story, Abraham does not know who the three guests are, he is simply practicing ancient middle-Eastern hospitality. However, as the story unfolds, the three visitors turn out to be the Lord! And the Lord informs the elderly (and childless) Abraham and Sarah that in due season they will have a son. The news is so unbelievable that Sarah laughs! And of course, in due season, Abraham and Sarah do have a son, and they name him Isaac.

What does this have to do with SoCe Life and Asset-Based Community Development?

Let me answer that question with a few questions to ponder:

  • Is it possible that God still speaks through strangers?
  • Is it possible that the hope we need in our communities could be heard in the voices of the marginalized?

I believe the answer is yes!

Up next, one more illustration…