“What punishment do you think the young man deserves?” the police officer asked my mother-in-law. A troubled, teenage boy had broken into her car and stolen her wallet.
“I think he should be required to come to my house for Sunday dinner,” she said.
The police officer was shocked. So were her family, even her husband, the pastor.
It was grace exemplified; radical hospitality extended. An invitation to a new life.
Sunday dinners were always interesting at my in-laws. Before she left for church, my mother-in-law would put a roast in the oven and a large pot of vegetables would simmer slowly on her stove.
We never knew who would be there, neither did she. If she knew anyone was eating alone or just needed to be loved on, she would invite them to dinner. Somehow, there was always enough food for everyone as we all squeezed into her small dining room.
For the young transgressor, Grace reached down and pardoned his crime. He deserved punishment, but he dined with forgiveness.
My mother-in-law modeled radical hospitality with poise and elegance. She was an expression of Romans 12:13:
“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
“Philoxenia.” That’s the the Greek word for hospitality and it means “love for strangers”. It’s much more than offering others a meal. We all hunger but we are only truly satisfied when we hunger for Christ, the true Manna.
Radical hospitality is inviting others to the lavish banquet of God’s extravagant love.
At the heart of true hospitality is showing others their value and worth in Christ, when we openly welcome strangers, outcasts and the neglected.
My mother-in-law would have been 76 years old today. Her birthday was always easy to remember, falling on April Fool’s Day. Her life was cut short by ovarian cancer at the age of 54, one year older than I am.
She died on her husband’s birthday, making the date of her death as easy to remember as her birthday. Her family honored her wish to die at home. The horrible disease had ravaged her body and she became increasingly weak over several months.
On the day of her death, something miraculous happened. Much to her family’s astonishment, she got out of bed and slowly shuffled her way into the kitchen to cut her husband’s birthday cake. It was her final act of love for her beloved shortly before she reached the shores of eternity.
She lived the Gospel until her final breath.
At her funeral, hundreds came to say good-bye to someone who loved boldly and without ceasing. The downtown church overflowed with mourners whose lives were touched by her generous and loving spirit.
She was the one who gave me my first Bible, shortly after my husband and I started dating. Inside the Bible was a simple reference she wrote to John 3:3:
Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Years later, after her death, I finally understood. It was an invitation to a new life in Christ. A glorious feast with our Redeemer.
We, all, have been invited to a great heavenly banquet, the wedding supper of the Lamb.
It will be a joyous celebration of His divine kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth.
No more death. No more tears. No more suffering.
We will gaze upon the Bridegroom and we will behold the full radiance of His glory. We will see Him in all His Majesty and we will boldly rejoice:
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9
We celebrate Easter because the Lamb has overcome!
And we will celebrate in Heaven because He is risen!