In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about separating sheep from goats, but he’s really teaching us how he recognizes his people. You know the passage. As he invites the sheep into his eternal kingdom, he commends them for certain actions. It’s a very short list. Welcoming strangers is on it. Jesus tells the sheep that in welcoming strangers they were actually welcoming him. Then he tells the goats in refusing to welcome strangers they were refusing to welcome him! Ouch! Sounds like welcoming strangers is a big deal to Jesus! But what does it mean?
Saying “Welcome to America!” with a warm smile is a good start, but it’s not enough. The verb Jesus uses literally means “to bring together.” Elsewhere in the New Testament it is usually translated “to gather,” like a farmer gathers his wheat, or the disciples gather leftover bread. Jesus expects us to purposely enlarge our circles to include the strangers among us. Nothing less than that! But gathering people is hard. It takes intention, persistence, and humility. It’s hard because we must give ourselves, giving things is not enough.
Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit can we welcome well. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics or economics or the laws of any earthly nation. It has to do only with the heart of God, made plain throughout the Bible. We welcome strangers because Jesus told us he expects his sheep to do so. The RISE project is interested in helping churches welcome. provides video series, training sessions, and media resources to help us welcome people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
After all, Jesus said it is how we welcome him.