40 miles on his 40th birthday. A number set apart by God as significant. 40 days of rain, 40 days on a mountain, 40 years of wandering, 40 days of fasting – all associated with periods of probation or testing. 40 miles of running — an incredible goal, a trial, a journey he won’t forget. The 40 mile part is impressive on its own. But what was really amazing is how my friend Andy made his personal goal a community effort and blessing. Andy asked several of his close friends and family to journey with him, to run 4 mile stretches along side of him. Each time Andy completed the four-mile loop, he dropped off a friend, and picked up another.
Every stride shared, every lap completed together. Isn’t that how life should be?
And every time Andy reached the finish line of the loop, he was received by people who loved him. They would hand him water, give shouts of encouragement, and send him out again. This pattern repeated for eight hours until he crossed the finish line for the final time, with his wife running next to him and his three children riding along side on their bikes.
Receiving and sending for 40 miles. Receiving and sending to complete a goal. Receiving and sending in support of a friend. Receiving and sending to show our love.
Receiving and sending, a posture of hospitality. A way of living that imitates Jesus. This welcoming. This satisfying the thirst of another. Speaking words of encouragement. And sending out. This ought to be the life of a Christian. The way we relate and love.
Receive Christians. Give them water for their thirsty faith, encouragement in their journey, and send them out to live and work a little more quenched.
Receive strangers. Give them the kind of water they’ve never had – the living kind, the kind where they will never thirst again, the kind that springs up to eternal life – and send them out with the seed planted for God to grow a faithful spirit.
Receive children. Don’t abandon them or abuse them. Don’t ignore them. Don’t spend more time with your computer or phone than you do with them. Feed them, hold them, love them, interact with them, encourage them, teach them how to learn and work, and send them out into the world confident and secure in who they are as children of a King.
Receive orphans. Into your home, into your family. Or financially support a family who is already willing to do it. Encourage God’s movement of finally waking up his people to care for the fatherless. And send these orphans out as living testimonies of a father who grafts all people into his tree of life.
Receive the person behind the counter. Give them a quick drink of something encouraging. A word, a blessing – something more than the programmed I’m fine how are you? And send them out with a smile, and a little more motivation to finish the job they are doing.
Receive your spouse. Welcome him or her into the fenced in corners of your life. The places were true intimacy is found. Find out what quenches him and pour into him. Send her out with enough grace and love so she may offer it to others.
Receive the poor. Don’t judge them for how they got that way. Don’t make assumptions about them. Don’t throw money at them. Get to know them. Welcome them into your life, into your home. And send them out with hope that they are worthy. That they have a promise of eternal riches.
Jesus received. He welcomed all people, and especially those others wouldn’t. And after quenching their thirst, he sent them out with truth. Something that would grow them, empower them toward the finish line.
We are a people called to receive and send out. Be ready and prepared. Be willing and able. Be looking for opportunities.
Be available to God. For this is hospitality.