According to Gabriel Salguero, a pastor in New York and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition,
“Part of the discipleship marker is hospitality. A cup of cold water is a reprieve, a welcome, a new start.” It is love for a stranger that comprises the Christian virtue of hospitality.
Today’s message examines the cost of a cup of cold water.
The Cost of a Cup of Cold Water Is Personal
This is a cost on a relational basis. Getting involved with people is the call Jesus makes to His followers. It simply means getting connected with others, which sounds simple but often is complex. To be connected with someone means we must get to know and understand that person. Sometimes we don’t want to be that connected. It’s easier and safer to be superficial with others. Jesus called us to love, a love that according to Salguero is “never absent from sacrifice, mercy or justice.”
I have taken a position as part-time hospice chaplain and have been in training sessions. One of the requirements is a ride-along with a hospice nurse. The nurse I was assigned has been a long-time acquaintance and Christian friend. My time with him was an eye-opening experience. He was not just the nurse to the people we visited, those who only have six months or less to live, but also their friend. He responded to them by bringing into their lives a cup of cold water through his mannerism, a caring touch, listening ear, genuine interest, advocacy on their behalf and heartfelt compassion.
Salgero reminds us discipleship is always relational and connected to how we treat others. Jesus Himself said, “for I was a stranger.” In the gospel, we are called to a radical discipleship that loves neighbor, stranger—and enemy.
Who has Jesus called you to invest in lately? You cannot invest in everyone, but you can invest in at least one person!
The Cost of a Cup of Cold Water Is on Jesus’ Behalf
There are many wonderful humanitarian organizations doing incredible jobs of caring for people around the world, including the United States; but there is a marked difference between humanitarianism and Christianity. Christ is the difference.
I was in northern Panama with a church group doing work projects and witnessing for Jesus through a variety of avenues. We visited a place called La Gloria, but it was anything but glorious to live there. The community was off the highway, through a jungle of mountains and valleys with spectacular views and incredible vegetation, but once there the scene was different.
Waiting for our bus to come were 150 beautiful children who lived in absolute squalor. Their lean-to shacks had no electricity, no running water, open sewage, and animals with protruding ribs. We handed out flip flops, backpacks, clothing, toothbrushes and more as we shared Jesus’ love for them in drama, song and testimony with a message of hope.
We met a wonderful young man from Indiana, who was working there as a member of the Peace Corps. He had been there three years and was making a difference in their lives. Through his efforts, he had installed a solar water system that brought fresh, clean water to their school. I applaud his efforts, but his efforts stopped there.
As Christians, we can go further. We must share the fact that what we do is on behalf of the Jesus who died on a cross to transform their lives from the inside out. You and I have been called to bring a cup of cold water to the world! We cannot make them drink, but we must offer it!
The Cost of a Cup of Cold Water is Rewarded for Eternity
The Meno-Hof Ammish-Mennonite Museum in Shipshewana, Ind., relates the life of Menno Simmons, a Free Church leader. His 16th century theology focused on separation from this world, and baptism by repentance symbolized his faith. He wrote in Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539):
“For true evangelical faith…cannot lie dormant, but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it…clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those who injure it; prays for those who persecute it.”
Anyone caught offering hospitality to Menno was arrested and (in at least one case) executed. Those who offered Menno a cup of cold water understood that as Christians, we are a team, and all of us are supportive players participating with others even if it means persecution in this world; but we have eternal rewards as a result of this participation!
Have cups ready along with pitchers of cold water. Ask the congregants if they would like to come and take a cup of cold water as a symbol to offer to someone during the week. Have a prayer for God’s direction about who should receive their cups.