I've been thinking about strangers lately, in large part due to two recent experiences. The first involved my nephew. My sister, brother and I had taken B to the doctor for his 4 year check up, which included his various vaccinations and such as he's starting preschool in the fall (!!!). I have to admit it was a pretty fun to watch B interact with someone who's not family. I don't get to see this very often, and aside from the part where the nurse and my sister (who also happens to be a nurse) were holding B down so he'd actually get his shots, it was nice just to watch what happened. The doctor came in and started asking him questions, one of which was a series of questions about colors (I'm guessing to see if he's color blind), and other just general things. Then came the following conversation:
Doctor: If a stranger came up to you and wanted you to go with him, would you go?
B: (shakes his head no)
Doc: What if that stranger said he had some puppies to show you?
B: (shakes his head yes)
Doc: (Goes on to explain why we don't go with strangers even if they have puppies). So, would you go with the stranger who had puppies?
B: (shakes head no)
Now, to be fair, B just got a puppy for his birthday and puppies are pretty enticing. So that afternoon, while walking to the barber shop for a hair cut (for B), my brother and I talked with him about strangers and posed different scenarios-candy, puppies, etc.-and this time B had gotten the gist and said no every time.
That was experience one.
The second was on my way to work. The town in which I work tends to attract all sorts of folks, and I've found a much larger number of hitch hikers there than I would ever have expected. On the interstate heading in, I passed two women who looked to be about my age and a massive dog, with backpacks on hitchhiking down the interstate. I didn't stop. This struck me, though, because while you might see these folks on state highways around the town where I work, rarely does one see a couple of folks like this on the interstate (rarely do I see women hitchhiking at all, for that matter).
And it got me to thinking-where do we draw the line about strangers? These women needed a ride, and while I couldn't have fit all of them and their giant dog into my car, if I could have, would I have stopped? No. I wouldn't have. There are too many red flags that go up when I see a hitchhiker, regardless of who they are, all of which surround my own personal safety.
This in turn got me to thinking about the role of hospitality in our society, and how it compares to the role in earlier societies. In Jesus's time, for example, it was an essential part of the way things were. Or you could look at medieval England. Or any earlier place that didn't have our "modern conveniences" or whatever. Welcoming the stranger was essential to how society worked, and breaches of that hospitality (either on the part of the guest or host) were a huge deal.
So what would happen, I wonder, if Jesus were walking down the highway today? Do angels still function in the roles of hospitality in earlier times, or would they function in the ways we're more used to? If you could afford to put a stranger up in a hotel, would you do that or welcome them into your home? My guess is go for the hotel option. I'm not saying that in a judging way-I'd probably do the same thing-but there you go.
Sorry this post seems rather scattered. I haven't fully developed my thoughts on the matter, but I wanted to go ahead and write before I let them go away. And I have an allergy headache. And I need to do Welsh. And there's more World Cup football to watch.
So yeah. Hmm.