They can be seen everywhere. They can be seen standing pressed up against a perimeter wall after a church service, clutching a paper cup full of juice, or looking at the ground. They can be seen wandering between groups of friends chatting excitedly. They can be seen with no one to talk to, their hands in their pockets, trying to look like they have somewhere to go. They can be seen not understanding inside jokes and acronyms, laughing nervously as they wonder what other people think of their hair, their clothes, or their accent. They can be seen deciding whether or not to come back, to give it all a second try.
They are the outsiders, the first-timers, the strangers. People from the outside who venture into various “in-groups” maybe looking for a way to join a Bible study, a church or other Christian community. At different times, they are you, or me, or someone else entirely. When we are part of the “in-group,” whenever we are not the outsiders and strangers, we have a God-given responsibility to keep a welcoming eye out for them. Do new people feel comfortable on their first visit to your home turf? If they don’t, ask yourself what you can do to make them feel comfortable. Sacrificial love cares more for the comfort of others than for its own comfort–we need to train ourselves to be aware of visitors to our Christian communities and to draw them into circles of friendship, instead of leaving them to awkwardly navigate the perimeters alone while we catch up with old friends. It is within your power to make a stranger’s visit warm and inviting or an uncomfortable experience they’d rather quickly forget. It’s easy to make the choice to simply not see the needs of a first-timer who stands on the edges of your group–but instead, make the loving choice to see them and to know them. Throughout the New Testament, we can find numerous references to the need to show hospitality and love to strangers. Let’s love like Christ, and be aware of the outsiders among us.