3 I was overjoyed when the brothers and sisters arrived and spoke highly of your faithfulness to the truth, shown by how you live according to the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth. 5 Dear friend, you act faithfully in whatever you do for our brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers. 6 They spoke highly of your love in front of the church. You all would do well to provide for their journey in a way that honors God, 7 because they left on their journey for the sake of Jesus Christ without accepting any support from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore, we ought to help people like this so that we can be coworkers with the truth.
This passage is a letter attributed to the Apostle John. By reading the previous two verses, we hear that the letter reveals a personal note, which was meant to give support and encouragement to Gaius, who was known to be living “according to the truth.” Here John, the elder Christian, is asking the younger Christian to offer hospitality to traveling brothers and sisters. Likely this hospitality would sometimes be offered to people he did not really know, yet he is being told to “provide for their journey in a way that honors God.” John’s encouragement came during a new but changing time in Christianity, when being a Christian could really be risky business.
Think about it. With positivity and assertion, John was encouraging Gaius to boldly offer hospitality even though it was a scary and threatening time. (Does this sound like today?) I don’t know about you, but this is the challenge: John is saying to give those journeying in the faith all the help we can, even when we don’t really know them. Wow, so now to be a Christian, I have to be radically hospitable in a way that really puts me out there. I have to be hospitable and welcoming to other Christians, boldly providing for their needs, “even though they are strangers.”
The good news is that this scripture also encourages us to strengthen the Church by reaching out to those who are right among us. We may not know everyone we see at church, but we have those who need encouragement right within our midst. Right now, we have members who are: homeless or about to be; those battling illness/injury or are in hospice care; those struggling with loss, anxiety, depression or being overwhelmed, just to name a few needs. Today we have brothers and sisters who are hurting right around us, but we don’t always know it.
As Christians, can we acknowledge that we all do struggle sometimes and that we all are imperfect? We can accept this. It is part of the nature of our Christology. Maybe we all could reach out toward one another, despite our imperfections. Reaching out, whether to offer support or as the one who needs encouragement, is a scary proposition. But through the Holy Spirit, we can be bold in letting our brothers and sisters know that we are here! This also means risking letting someone know when we need help too. Sometimes that is the boldest way to be.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there a way that you can reach out to someone today who is also “journeying” in the faith? Maybe you could give a quick call, talk to a friend, or drop a note. Despite our imperfections, it is the Holy Spirit that heals us through our connection with one another.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, we thank you for journeying with us. You know our hearts. You know our hurts and needs. You know that sometimes reaching out to others in the faith is a scary proposition. It may take our radical hospitality and our trust in another. Help us to boldly step out in love and faith. Help us to encourage others and to know when to ask for this encouragement in return. Amen.