“Welcome home, you / I know you by name / How do you do? / I shine because of you today / So come and sit down / Tell me how you are / I know son, it’s good just to see your face”
- Brian Littrell, Welcome Home (You), from the 2006 album, “Welcome Home”
I live in a city known as a leader in the hospitality industry. People come from all over the world to a little oasis in the desert in order to be well-fed and entertained. A single high-rise hotel may offer as many as 4,400 rooms for visitors. UNLV recently opened a brand-new, state of the art hospitality building on their campus to train future Strip workers. There are more diamond resorts in a 3 mile route than at almost any other place in the world. If there’s anything that Las Vegas excels at, it’s welcoming the world to it’s doorstep.
Which caused me to wonder how the church is doing in that department. If I’m honest, it seems more often than naught that the last place the world is ever welcomed is in the pews. And yet, if one were to look at the third chapter of Matthew, John the Baptist is a master at helping others to welcome Jesus. Yes, his primary message is one of repentance, but the purpose is to prepare people to receive the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives. Which leaves me to wonder, how well am I doing this? Is every connection I make, no matter how great or small, one which welcomes people in Jesus’ name? Not discriminating. Not judging. Not throwing up hoops for people to jump through first. Just simply welcoming people in.
What would this look like on a practical scale? Maybe every church operates as a homeless shelter Monday through Saturday, pausing only to hold services on Sunday. And many of the homeless are congregants, along with gamblers, refugees, alcoholics, prostitutes, embezzlers, adulterers, illegal immigrants, and various members of the LGBTQ community. If people discover what I believe by the way I live, what does the current make-up of the church say about Christ? After all, if people can’t see my faith by the way I live, then I may not be much of a Christian.
Finally, I’m impressed by how tirelessly John worked to welcome people into the Kingdom. He completely devoted his time and energy to the pursuit of others, which leaves me to wonder: do I put all of my energy into the task God has for me? Because of John’s enthusiasm and Jesus’ submission to John when He is baptized, God says He is well=pleased with His Son. That phrase “well-pleased” can be interpreted as God expressing His great joy. And I have to ask myself, “Do I bring God great joy in how I live?” Do my words reflect Him? Do my actions reflect Him? Do my thoughts reflect Him? All the time or just when it’s convenient for me? And if not, why not? Again, people will know what I believe by the way I live, act, think; especially towards others. How am I welcoming them?