The final greetings in this letter to the Corinthian church are tender and personal. Paul cares deeply about this gathering of people and wants them to be courageous in their faith and loving in their actions. He desires that people live with respect for each other, honoring others who are committed to the Kingdom’s expansion. “When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone treat him with contempt. Send him on his way with your blessing when he returns to me. I expect him to come with the other believers.” Even over an expansive distance, life is still best lived in the closeness of community. Love those around you and greet others as they travel through; be blessed and be a blessing.
Hospitality is not a southern thing; it’s a biblical principle. I resolved in 2005 to live out the truths in a part of Paul’s letter he wrote to those in Rome. “Practice hospitality” was one of those truths. Like other skills that we practice, we can grow to get better at them, even if it does not come natural at first. To help me be more concrete in this goal I began a Hospitality Notebook. How blessed I am to read through pages of visitors and to think back on the times we shared, some just over night and other stays more lengthy. I asked our guests to write down where they were coming from, where they were heading and something I could pray for them. Opening our home, no matter where it happens to be blesses our family because we learn more about people and the world from those traveling through it. And when the time comes to say good-bye, we aim to send the sojourners on their way with a blessing.
There will come a time when there will be no more traveling; all in the family of God will be safely home. Distance, time and language will no longer separate us. Nothing can separate those who are in God’s family from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and one day all believers will be united again. What a wonderful family reunion that will be!