When was the last time you walked into a group as a stranger? Do you remember how it feels? Do you remember how it feels to not know where to sit, what to do, where to go, who is in charge, what is going on?
If it has been a long time, or maybe you cannot remember, I recommend you visit another church. If you want to be really brave, visit a church that is not part of your denomination, a church that is very different from yours. Walk in and get in touch with what it feels like to be a stranger.
You might think this issue is not important enough to warrant going to all this fuss about. Jesus counted the issue of strangers and how they are treated as very important. It is one of the things that separate the sheep from the goats. Circle the word “stranger” every time it occurs in this passage:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:34-46 [NIV]
Imagine Jesus visited your group. How would you treat Him? Jesus taught us to treat every visitor that way, because how we treat them is how we are treating Him.