Last weekend I went to the second installment of a three-day retreat around Henri Nouwen’s book “Reaching Out.” Our discussion was about the movement from hostility to hospitality (in relation to other people). One of the things he brought out was that we have a natural distrust of people and we have an innate assumption that “strangers” can’t be trusted. We take many measures to ensure our safety against those we don’t know. He leads you to wrestle with h0w it might change things if instead of viewing strangers as a threat we viewed them as guests with things they can teach us if we will allow them.
I’m not capturing the depth of his question, or its clarity, but this has been a difficult one for me to wrestle with in the week since that gathering. The reality is that there are some “strangers” who are a threat–a threat to my family’s safety, to my emotional well-being, to my comfort. On the other hand, I think it is true that I miss many potentially great interactions because of viewing “strangers” as a threat or someone who has to earn my trust. I show less kindness and hospitality to people because of my trepidation.
Hospitality was an important concept during the time Jesus lived. I don’t think fears of safety (in whatever sense) should make it a non-issue now. I’m just wrestling with what that looks like.