Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! —Hebrews. 13.2
Yesterday our team went with the L.A. Dream Center to MacArthur Park to hand out bags of food. I’ve been to this park before…
In fact, I wrote a little something about my experience there back in 2011—in a post entitled “Get Over Yourself. And Cooties.” Haha. Funny title. Here’s what it said:
I’ve had a number of experiences that helped push me to get over myself…
Like serving hot meals to people living on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
Like holding AIDS babies in a government hospital in Swaziland.
Like praying for a couple of prostitutes in drug-infested MacArthur Park—immediately after saying “amen,” one of the prostitutes put her arms around me and gave me a big hug.
In circumstances like these, I had to decide what’s more important—my comfort or real compassion.
To be honest, my brain offers me some less-than-compassionate thoughts like…
“Something smells and I don’t want to get it on me.”
“What about germs, diseases and cooties?”
I’m embarrassed and ashamed that my brain reacts that way. I know that’s not real compassion…
So I get over myself. And cooties.
The issue isn’t really about me or cooties—it’s about hurting, lonely, broken, scarred people.
I love the straight-forward language of this verse:
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. —Philippians 2.3, 4
There’s a story in Luke chapter 5 about a man with an advanced case of leprosy. He comes to Jesus and begs for healing. Jesus could’ve prayed for the man from a distance—but he didn’t.
He reached out and touched the man.
He touched the leper BEFORE he healed him.
He touched him even though he was unclean and contagious.
There’s a significant take-away here:
When we find ourselves at the crossroads between our comfort and real compassion, we must get over ourselves. And cooties. We must choose compassion.
* * * *
Receiving the ‘other’ is risky. Often takes more hospitality of soul than we can muster. But we follow a God who risked and calls us to risk.
So yesterday I was back in MacArthur Park. I was standing back, taking in all the sights and observing people. That’s when I noticed this guy who seemed like he was interested in what was going on… he seemed to be curious, watching, waiting. I walked over to him and asked him how he was doing. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. I asked him if he would like some of the food being handed out. He said yes, so I got him signed in… he was number 134, and he would be waiting for a while.
After getting a number, a place in line that guaranteed he would be getting food, we stood together and talked. His name is Kahal. He is from Iran. He came to Los Angeles 16 years ago. He’s worked a number of jobs—in kitchens, landscaping, Uber driver… but has recently fallen on hard times. He doesn’t have an address right now, or a computer, and this makes applying for jobs a challenge.
I enjoyed talking with Kahal. He was pleasant, intelligent, and kind. He was quick to smile and laugh. And I kept thinking about how hospitable he was towards me.
Meeting Kahal from Iran in MacArthur Park was perhaps what churchy people call a divine appointment.
So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land. —Deuteronomy 10.19