The word welcome is used in numerous ways.
We welcome people into our homes. When someone says thank you, we often respond you’re welcome. When only one dessert remains, we may tell someone that they are welcome to have it. We may even welcome an adversary to leave if we’re trying to be exceptionally polite!
The various uses of welcome often include an attitude of invitation – we offer someone permission to access or have something we control, especially when that means welcoming them into our lives. No matter how it’s used, welcome is always relational; it is a conversational exchange between people. And the tone behind this conversational tool is one of generosity, affection, love, and hospitality.
Henri Nouwen once said, “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.” That may be one of the best descriptions of Jesus’ attitude two millennia ago.
Jesus repeatedly welcomed people who were often accustomed to being excluded, rejected, or simply ignored. And once in his presence, he gave them space – often over a meal – to share their joys, burdens, and questions. He gave them space to heal and become more than who they had been or who society had limited them to being.
God extends this same welcome to us today. God welcomes us into God’s presence, offering us space to share every facet of our lives with God. Regardless of how we identify or define ourselves, God welcomes us to accept God’s affection and rejoices when we accept.
When or where have people welcomed you? Where can you find ways to extend a welcoming attitude toward others? Each day, how might you perceive God welcoming you?
by Charles White
Photo credit: Original Reno Arch (now located on Lake Street), by Tobias Haase