I found myself behind a very slow moving vehicle on my way home from the church the other day. I wasn’t too worried because I thought surely this car doesn’t the EXACT route I take home.

Before that sentiment proved faulty, I recognized the vehicle! It belonged to my next door neighbor!

They are a couple with young children like us, so I was a little surprised they were driving so slowly. I found myself with a more patient attitude behind this slow vehicle because I knew them.

Sure enough, the car was going the EXACT way I was going home. But then, in a really weird place, the car slowed down right before a stop sign. I didn’t know if my neighbors were being nice to the car behind them (me) because they were going so slow or just getting out of the way in case the vehicle behind them was getting annoyed at their turtle pace.

So I cautiously steered around them fully expecting a friendly smile and a wave when we recognized each other…

…but it wasn’t them!

It was a complete stranger dropping someone off at a house right by the stop sign! I laughed at myself. Then it got me thinking:

At first I was annoyed at the slow driver, then not annoyed when I thought it was someone I knew. But when it wasn’t, I reflected on why I get annoyed at people when I’m driving. It seems that I give an enormous amount of grace (and patience) to those I know, but the complete opposite to those I don’t. That’s not right. After all, the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks of His church’s need to welcome and be hospitable to strangers. Does that mean we just merely smile and wave at those we don’t know in the grocery store? Or does it mean that in all aspects of my life I need to be aware of how I treat those who are in my way, frustrate me, talk bad about me, etc.?

The gospel is never convenient for me and the more I grow in it the more I realize the Holy Spirit has so much more to teach me about hospitality toward people. I wonder:

Would I have had patience with that slow car if it had been a car I didn’t recognize?

No way! I know me! I would have been annoyed and frustrated. But I wasn’t because I thought I knew them. Everyone I encounter (because everyone Jesus encountered) shouldn’t be treated as a stranger or as someone I don’t know… rather it should be as one I haven’t met yet and can’t wait to treat humanely because that’s how I would appreciate being treated by people.

I can’t imagine what my community of Hayward would look like if folks gave each other the benefit of the doubt and treated everyone they encountered as a friend-in-the-making. And it starts with this guy right here, making the difficult decision to have faith in Jesus rather than faith in my own self… that creates a unique, God-intended place to live.

That would truly be a place that felt like heaven… because it would be gracefully hospitable to all!