As I sat in the back row in the church listening to stories about my dear friend, the word “hospitality” kept coming to my mind. Hospitality used to invoke images of a plate of freshly baked cookies, an immaculately organized home, and a hostess wearing an apron and always smiling in welcome. True hospitality, though, can’t be measured in terms of cleanliness, quantity or quality of food, or who can smile the longest without their face hurting. My friend exuded hospitality. And it was expressed in the dried tears on her shirt of people who struggled with addiction, serving meals to the homeless, and letting dirty, less than groomed people enter into what potentially could have been a neat and tidy life.
Hospitality is always having room in my life for the next person God sends my way, regardless of whether he or she can offer me something in return, or whether they hate me or love me. Being truly hospitable means my heart is a revolving door, and everyone gets in. Because if anybody is welcome in, surely God will enter in, too.
“I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.”
She entered through the gate and was momentarily blinded by the brilliance of the road before her. So, it really is paved with gold, she thought. She slowly put one foot in front of the other as her eyes adjusted. When she could see clearly, she saw lush gardens around her and a row of houses made of marble-like stones and rich woods. Something besides the material of these houses was different than those on earth. These houses, she was startled to realize, had no doors. She could see straight into the heart of every home to the people inside. She could see people dancing in the house to her left, and sharing a meal in the house to her right. As she passed by each house she heard laughing, singing, and lively conversation. And as she passed each house, all the inhabitants would shout through the opening, “Come join us, and welcome to heaven, sister!”
I don’t believe there will be doors there. What will there be to keep out? Love, joy, and peace will flow from the King’s throne down every street, circulating through every building, and live in the hearts of all inhabitants. People will come and go from place to place without calling first, without knocking, without warning, because no one feels shame or has anything to hide. There will be no evil to seek shelter from or lock out.
There, God’s hospitality will reign.