The importance of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, Strangers at My Door, cannot be overstated. It’s a call to live out and remember those red letters of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I first met Jonathan over a decade ago when he attended Eastern University, where I teach. Since then he’s taken the head knowledge he learned during those four years and embodied it with his hands. As many of you know, Jonathan, his wife Leah, and my other student, Shane Claiborne, traveled to Iraq in 2003 at the beginning of the war to demonstrate Christ’s love for the Iraqis. I may have impressed the urgency of these words on them in the classroom but they took them further. While bombs were falling in the land of America’s stated “enemy, ” they and their team lived out the radical hospitality taught by Jesus.
Since they returned, Jonathan and his wife, Leah, have continued to live out this radical hospitality at their home in Walltown, NC. The community is called Rutba house. It’s a place for people to come who have nowhere else to go. As Jonathan describes so eloquently in his book, many people come knocking and as he opens the door he slowly leans forward and asks, “Is that you Jesus?”
In Strangers at My Door Jonathan recounts stories from his decade of life at Rutba house. Be warned, some of the stories are difficult and sad. Sometimes meeting Christ in your neighbor means objects get stolen and feelings get hurt. But as you read you’ll feel the good news in every page. Because when we live out those red letters of Jesus our lives are bound to be messy and complex, like his. But they’re also bound to preach the good news in each and every story.
Jonathan is one of the reasons I love teaching. His life example is a deep inspiration. I encourage you to, as Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
This post is a review of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, “Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests, ” currently featured on the Red Letter Book Club.