One of the most potent passages in Scripture to me is in Matthew 25 when Jesus tells the story of the Final Judgement. It’s a hard story to read. Even that phrase, “final judgment,” sounds like a bell tolling in my mind!
Jesus talks about gathering all of the nations before Him and like a shepherd or a rancher, He separates the flock based on what He needs to do with them. In this case, He puts goats on the left and sheep on the right. For the goats, it’s bad news. For the sheep, it’s good. Yet they are all confused as to what they have done or not done to lead to that fate. In response to their questions, Jesus told the sheep about the times they saw Him thirsty or hungry or naked or sick or in prison and they met His need. He also said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
They are even more baffled and ask Him when that happened. They don’t even remember seeing Jesus! They are pretty sure they would have remembered that. He says, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” (The Message)
What does this story have to do with summer? This is the season of moving, of relocating. It’s when families make the mad dash to sell and buy a home before school starts back up, people change neighborhoods or jobs. This is the season when strangers abound. Do you see them?
When you see a moving truck in your neighborhood, there goes Jesus in the disguise of a harried mom trying to occupy her traumatized children while all of their earthly belongings are put into a strange room. If you notice someone getting the new employee training in your office, you are in prime territory for an encounter with Jesus. To go to a grocery store and see the face of someone from another country who is staring at labels on food products, is to see the face of Jesus. When you are at church on Sundays and see someone walk in with a quizzical look on their face, there He is! Do you see Him? The strangers are coming every week and will come with increasing frequency as the school year approaches.
There is something in the heart of God that loves to see His people move toward the stranger, to set them at ease, to welcome them, to give them the sense that they are wanted and expected. It means that we get it! We were once strangers and aliens, but God went looking for us. We were lost and harried and confused but He brought us in and set things right and gave us a Home.
Summer is for strangers. I pray we remember what that felt like. I pray we see them and will step out of our habitual comfort zones and go welcome them. Just ask the sheep in Matthew 25, you’ll be glad you did.