It's that time of year again: where we pack up the car, plug in the GPS and hit the open road! Adventure awaits us, precious memories are in the making but, so is something else: CONFLICT! Why? Because no matter what route we choose in our GPS - there's no road that we can journey down alone. For the truth is, we are surrounded by other drivers who never use their blinker, who interpret every stop sign as a "rolling" one and who drive so fast you'd think you were racing in the Indy 500!
And when we encounter people who travel through life so differently than we do, it's really, really hard to share the road! It's hard to shift, merge and travel with people whose ideas, backgrounds or values may be in a totally different gear than our own. And yet - that's exactly what the Apostle Paul calls us to do in the 12th chapter of Romans: "Contribute to the needs of the Lord's people; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them."
When I read these words I automatically think, "You can say bless and not curse, Paul - because you've never driven down 465 in rush hour traffic!" Yet, Paul had to share the road with far greater obstacles: a government that criminalized his preaching, a religious establishment that rejected him, public beatings, incarceration and shipwrecks - just to name a few. In many miles of traveling, Paul moved and merged with countless people who did not agree with him or see God and the world the way he did. Yet this did not shift his core conviction: to bless them anyway. To extend God's grace and mercy to strangers not because he knew them but simply because God knows them.
This call to share the road has not been paved over - its one that every follower of Christ must journey down today. It's got just as many twists and turns now as it did then but, the road that leads to blessing the stranger, to extending hospitality, is the one that Jesus is always on. May we meet Christ in the intersection of grace and hospitality - and most of all: enjoy the ride.