The Common Good

Discipleship and Strangers: A Cup of Cold Water

During this time of Lent I’ve been meditating anew what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Interestingly, the only Gospel to contain the word ekklesia — church — is the Gospel of Matthew. Also in Matthew is an interesting take on the call of the disciples. Matthew 10 begins with the premise that as disciples we are all are potentially homeless in a world that has radically different values. Immediately after Jesus calls the 12 disciples, he warns them that they will be misunderstood, mistreated, and often on the road. Then Jesus gives a particular imperative for discipleship. I call it the “cup of cold water” discipleship test. Part of the discipleship marker is hospitality. A cup of cold water is a reprieve, a welcome, a new start.

A cup of cold water is the minimal requirement for what the Scripture calls hospitality or in the original language, xenophilia — love of the stranger. Jesus says that whoever gives a cup of cold water to these nomadic disciples will not fail to receive their reward. Hospitality is a Christian virtue. The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for some have entertained angels unaware.”

Discipleship is always relational. Discipleship is connected to how we treat others. Jesus himself says, “for I was a stranger.” In the Christian Gospel we are called to a radical discipleship that loves neighbor, stranger, and even enemy. Love is never absent from sacrifice, mercy, or justice. As a pastor who works daily with immigrants from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe, my hope is that we find a way forward that is consistent with “cups of cold water” rather than blistering walls of division. This is not easy, but the way of the cross never is.

This discipleship call to love is part of the reason I joined the “I Was A Stranger” challenge lead by the Evangelical Immigration Table. For the 40 days of Lent I’ve joined thousands of evangelicals in reading a Scripture a day dealing with immigrants. Why? Simply put, being a disciple is, in part, about entertaining strangers. Now I know that the mandates concerning the stranger in Scripture do not have a one-to-one correlation with U.S. immigration policies. Still, the Scripture narratives, including the 92 times the word stranger is used in the Old Testament, overwhelmingly call for hospitality. My prayer this Easter season is that every congregation and leader would not fail “the cup of cold water” test. It’s about welcoming. The Church does not have a citizenship test for sharing for the cup and bread of communion. Disciples, at their core, are about building bridges and not walls of separations. As St. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, “we were once all strangers from the covenant and without hope but now in Christ we who were far have been drawn near.”

The task of discipleship is to make strangers into neighbors and friends. I’m praying that as followers of Jesus we all pass the “cup of cold water” test.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero is a committed Christ follower. He and his wife Jeanette are lead pastors of the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene in NY. He is the President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) a network of over 3000 Latino Evangelicals churches and leaders. Rev. Salguero serves on the board of the NAE and was named one of the most influential national faith leaders by the Huffington Post. The Salgueros have two beautiful sons who are their pride and joy.

Photo: Cup of cold water, Gunnar Pippel / Shutterstock.com

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