by Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Bynum -
"1 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. 2 Be ready with a meal or a bed when it's needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! 3 Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you." - Hebrews 13:1-3 (MSG Version)
In this season, many of us in our country, communities, local group associations, and families are discerning the times in which we are living, especially as they relate to the serious and important topic of “welcome.” In spite of many conversations, over the years, pertaining to demonstrative outreaches of welcome and hospitality some of us have not arrived at the place of embracing ethnic, racial, religious, sexual identity, socio-economic diversity and inclusiveness. Are we geared to tear down walls of rejection or to build up walls of wholehearted welcome?
I think the latter. And that it calls for a time of reflection.
Indubitably, each one of us has a story of welcome or non-welcome to tell, a story to share. What is your story of expressed welcome towards others?
What are the messages of welcome (or the contrary) that you have received from others?
What are the messages of welcome (or the contrary) that you convey to others?
Is there a distinction between your personal sentiments of tolerance, acceptance and receptivity of others?
Do you find yourself (publicly or privately) speaking out against flagrant (and sometimes not so flagrant) offenses and social injustices only to discover that you are oblivious to your own displays of preferential treatment of and bias toward others?
Have you explored ways to initiate, commit and participate in innovative ways to create, cultivate and sustain a culture of welcome “where you live, move and have your being?”
If you haven’t, you aren’t alone. But if you haven’t, you also need to know that now is the time to deepen and broaden your culture of welcome. Now is the time to design and develop an anatomy of welcome with a spiritual and emotional lens.
Here are a few ways to start:
1. Routinely engage in spiritual practices: Whether it’s prayer, meditation, the study of the Scripture or other inspirational writings, make it a daily practice to feel at one with God, leading you to feel at one with others.
2. Look in the mirror: Determine what values you want to profess and if you are truly living them out.
3. Use your ears more than your mouth: Intentionally and consistently practice the act of listening when you hear the voices of others.
4. Question your judgments: Refrain from judging others based upon their outward appearance. You may realize you have more in common with others than you thought.
5. Keep it real: Know that you are human in the process of it all and embrace the authentic.
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” - 1 Peter 3:8
6. Conspire for and explore the possibility of Holy Conversations:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ - Micah 6:8
Recently, I was in a store waiting in line to make a purchase. A young boy about the age of six years old and his sister about the age of eight, both in the company of their parents (the family being of a different ethnicity than mine) shared big, beautiful smiles when they looked at me.
They waved their hands as if to say, “I see you… I acknowledge you… I welcome you.” There was no frowning or hiding behind their parents. There was no dropping of their heads and squinting of their eyes. As the family was leaving, the parents engaged in the same welcoming, embracing actions with me, waving and smiling fearlessly.
The generous gift of the love of God can spread the spirit’s genuine “welcome” in unlimited, unexpected, and powerful ways...including a simple smile.
Here at DSF, we invite you to share with us the ways in which you are intentionally creating, cultivating and sustaining a culture of welcome at your home, your job, your school, your church, your community, and our nation.
On the journey together,
Reverend Dr. Jo Ann Bynum