A number of years ago while browsing through the many catalogs that clutter our mailbox I found a plaque that I thought would look attractive in the entry way of our new home. It read, “Peace To All Who Enter Here”. It came in various designs and hues. The one I liked best featured birds and flowers in bright colors. Then I noticed that the “all” was underlined. “Peace To All. . . . I hesitated. Suddenly I felt uncomfortable. Was my home really open to all? Good friends? Yes. Family? Of course. Church members? Certainly. But all? Well, they did have the plaque with a humorous addition at the bottom. It read in small print, “except robbers”. But this was no laughing matter.
I had wanted to make a subtle statement to our new neighbors that we were believers. Now I felt like a hypocrite. How inclusive was I willing to be? I did not purchase the plaque.
Some months later I ran across a poem I had written after a Bible study of Hebrews. And the plaque came to mind again.
His face is creased and weathered. His clothes are tattered rags.
His toes peek through the shoes he wears. His luggage? Garbage bags.
His home is in the subway, or underneath a bridge.
His meals are few and far between. And served on trash-can lids.
To passers-by he’s just a bum, not worthy of a stare.
But dare they look into his eyes. What wisdom shining there!
Those eyes have seen the best in man and they have seen the worst.
They’ve seen a kindness richly blessed, a cruelty twice-cursed.
Past times he lay beside the road, beaten and stripped by thieves.
A Good Samaritan came by and tended to his needs.
He comes sometimes a child, sometimes malformed or ill.
Whatever form or circumstance, he seeks compassion still.
Will we yet be forgetful to entertain the one?
Who though he be a stranger was sent by God’s own Son?
For as we do for others, Lord, we do it unto Thee.
A cup of water in Your Name affects eternity.
At the end of the poem I had added the scripture, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Heb.13:2
I wonder how many angels I have missed over the years? Yes, we take our old clothing to the Salvation Army and write a check to City Union Mission and perhaps feel like we have done enough. The closest we’ve come to a potential angel is the haggard looking fellow on the street corner with the cardboard sign asking for a handout. Then, let’s be truthful, haven’t we wondered, especially if he is young, that he might not be needy, just lazy? But, why should it matter? Our charitable deeds are to be done in secret. The blessing comes from God, not the man on the corner. Matt.6:3-4 If we are looking for a pat on the back from this world we will receive only this world’s praise. I want a more lasting reward!
Spring is here and as I browse the catalogs and newspaper inserts for shrubs and flowers to fill my entryway planters I see the plaque again. Written on gray faux-stone with black lettering, nothing gaudy or bright, is that simple statement of inclusiveness and acceptance. And now after years of introspection and a measure of spiritual growth I am ready to quietly declare: Peace To All Who Enter Here, and mean it.