My wife’s parents were role models in showing hospitality. Dinnertime was not only a social event, it was the main event! The food was always great and so were the welcome and the conversation.
A Friend of People
My father-in-law was a friend of people, regardless of their church affiliation or absence. Let me explain.
As a kid growing up in New York CIty, I remember the occasional big holiday dinner around the table for hours but the normal daily routine was sitting on the couch with folding snack tables with the evening news on the television. When I made a dinner reservation at a restaurant, they would ask “what time?” so they could estimate what time the table would be available for the next guest.
While living in Italy many years ago, I noticed a key difference between American culture and Italian.
In Italy, I quickly learned lingering at the table with loved ones was one of the rewards of making it through the day. When I made a dinner reservation in Italy, they only asked what day because they reserved the table for the evening. When you were invited for dinner at Joe and Rose’s (my wife’s parents) you were invited to linger.
At my mother and father-in-law’s, dinner was for family but there was never a “just us” mentality. As I recall, it was rare that those around the table only included those who were related by blood or marriage.
There was always room for guests. Holiday meals, especially, not only served as an opportunity to gather as a family but also to include those who may need a family. Those guests felt as much a part of the family as anyone related by blood.
That love for including, feeding, and welcoming was experienced by many. There seemed to be a supernatural gift of identifying and including those who needed a place to belong.
A Friend of Pastors
Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. That was pretty startling for the people who first made that “accusation”. But in our day we tend to honor Jesus for reaching people where they were and we try as best as we can to emulate and follow his lead. We work hard to develop genuine relationships with those who seem to be far from God that we might create a bridge of love through which God can impact their lives.
While many in our day would consider it an honor to be called a friend of sinners, my father in law was in a rare category of being able to befriend those far from God as well as those, most people would consider, closest to God.
Joe De Ruvo was what many in church leadership would call a high capacity volunteer. He was the guy you could count on no matter how challenging the task or commitment. Being in that role, he noticed how many pastors gave their life to care for and shepherd the flock but never felt that they could allow their own needs to be known. Many pastors end up running on fumes because the ministry can be all consuming leaving them little time for devotions or self-care in they are not careful. Additionally, they have so few relationships in which they can be truly open and vulnerable.
My father-in-law knew that and became a true friend and occasionally a mentor to a number of pastors over the years. They knew that they were loved and prayed for regularly. Receiving a call or text of encouragement or exhortation was always welcome. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of those myself. Lest you think I overstate the case, please check out this week’s installment of the Memorial Service that includes three of the four pastors who spoke, miraculously briefly, to show their love and appreciation.
This article originally appeared on the Encourage and Equip blog at http://www.encourageandequip.com/emulate/.