Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Radical Hospitality

Dear Friends,

Where are you on the hospitality scale? Some of you love having lots of people in your life and in your home. People energize you. Nothing could be more exciting than having old and new friends over on a weekend. Being by yourself feels lonely and you’re constantly on the phone or on social media. You have over 300 friends on Facebook and would be truly saddened if any one of those “defriended” you. If you are introduced to a stranger, you will greet them with a smile and a hug and feel blessed that God has brought a new friend into your life. If this is you, you’re a natural “host” or “hostess.” Thank God for you. 

You could be at the other end of the scale. Maybe you're the hermit. You like people but eventually they tire you out. Nothing could be more fulfilling than quietly reading a book with a cat on your lap. For you, a raucous party in your house is when you have one other person over for tea and you both smile when something humorous is mentioned. If you really want to liven-up the party, a little squeeze of lemon in the Earl Grey should do the trick. If you're on the hermit side of the scale, “stranger” sounds like “danger,” and if you've been able to let your guard down long enough to be introduced to a stranger, you’ll become comfortable and finally able to relax around them after you've known them for ten years. Thank God for you.

Depending on whether you’re a host/hostess or a hermit, I have good news or bad news for you: Jesus does not call us to a lifestyle of normal hospitality. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle of radical hospitality. That's a bummer for us more introverted souls because if normal hospitality threatens our introverted lifestyle, a radical Christ-like hospitality absolutely terrifies us. That’s why we have such good excuses. 

I'm tired and really don't have the time for other people right now. My house is a mess. I’m getting older and just don’t have the energy I once had. What if someone opens up the door to the spare bedroom? The carpets are dirty. My dog gets nervous. The living room ceiling needs paint. I'm not really a very good cook. I just don't know what to say to people. All good excuses but none better than mine! I was fortunate to have a clogged drain in my guest bathroom and for a couple of years was able to use that wonderful excuse for not having anyone over. 

Now you may not have the really excellent clogged drain excuse like I had so you might have to rely on one of the old standards like “I don’t have enough time.” That’s one of the most popular made-up excuses, but of course the truth is that we do have the time. What we do with the time we have is simply a matter of priorities. If we have time to throw a couple of burgers on the BBQ and sit down on a Sunday to watch television, we have time to grill up four or six burgers and sit down with our friends on a Sunday evening.

Hospitality is a mark of good Christian character. In 1Timothy 5:9-10, Paul is talking about widows but he defines good Christian character that applies to us all. Paul is saying that the mark of a good Christian is to take good care of your family and be hospitable toward others. One of the best ways of taking good care of others is when we give them our time. A Benedictine monk said, “In a fast-food culture, you have to remind yourself that some things cannot be done quickly. Hospitality takes time.” When we care for others, we need to turn our eyes from the clock and look at the one Jesus has sent to us in that moment of time.

Radical hospitality is what we are called to do and our own community is where we're called to do it. The community I'm talking about is all those who Jesus has brought into our lives for us to love. The easy ones to love may be our family and those who share with us the Christian journey that we have undertaken. The tougher ones may be those we know who have the difficult personalities or offensive lifestyles that make us the most uncomfortable. But radical hospitality always calls us into relationships with the ones hardest to love because those are often the ones who need Jesus the most. 

Jesus showed us what radical hospitality looks like when He ate with “disreputable sinners” who were social and religious outcasts. Matt 9:10-13 NLT Does that mean we should rethink our Christmas party guest list? Maybe so. When we are practicing radical hospitality, we are loving others like Jesus does. John 13:34-35 And for us hermits, even if we don’t have the “gift” of hospitality, the word of God tells us “..above all things have fervent love for one hospitable to one another.” 1 Peter 4:8-9 And if we ever feel as if we are being uncomfortably pushed to reach out to other people, we can thank God for the loving shove. Our Father will ask us to do the difficult, but He will never ask us to do the impossible! Amen?

Revised and expanded from an earlier AMEN Corner

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