Hospitality and the Mission of God
I’d like to borrow a question from a great believer of the earliest days of the Jesus movement and ask, “What hinders us from becoming missional?” What lies at the heart of our need for transformation in this post-Christian, post-modern, post-denominational world? Might I suggest something as simple and as radical as hospitality? I love the potential for renewal that Almighty God offers us through the missional conversation. I can see many ways that the missional conversation and the restoration plea can work together within our religious tribe, encouraging the Holy Spirit to burst forth in our communities with beautiful expressions of new life.
So what is hindering us? Walls. High, thick walls we’ve built for ourselves. Walls of tradition. Walls of hermeneutics. Walls behind which we gather and worship, and over which we lob tracts at a world that no longer notices or remembers us.
We live in a scary world, where so many facets of life are clearly beyond our control. Economies careen madly in the wake of demonic greed. The unborn are sacrificed at the altar of the American Dream. Radical Islam lurks in the shadows, so we can’t take nail clippers or shaving cream on an airplane anymore.
In such a world, we crave security, and many of us will accept it wherever we can find it. People huddle together in cloistered communities – in bars, tattoo parlors, Starbucks, political parties, social clubs, and churches. In a world where truth has moved on, and violence and manipulation are the ways of power, we find security in places and people that share our stories, and we avoid those who look and sound different. Security is precious to us, and walls promise security.
Hospitality as a Christian discipline takes the Emmaus Road narrative and the judgment story of Matthew 25 as paradigmatic for our daily lives. We welcome the stranger in the name of Christ, yes, but more than that, we welcome the stranger because he IS Christ to us. Hospitality is the active resistance of prejudice, suspicion, anxiety, and jealousy by the sharing of table, the embracing of strangers, and the protecting of people who travel life’s roads alone.
Hospitality is not just about sharing lives. It is about saving lives, and that puts it front and center in the mission of God. Behind our walls, we can only love our friends and relations. The Hebrew writer compels us to follow King Jesus outside the camp, to offer ourselves to the strangers around us without demanding anything from them.
I’m new to the missional conversation, brothers and sisters, but I hope I’m here to stay. I desperately want to move outside the camp with the heart of the Good Samaritan (from whose example we get the word hospital). I want to remember that everyone I meet, young and old, no matter how long I’ve known them, is a broken image of God whose only hope is for me to welcome them, offer them solace and safety, and embrace them into the mission of God.
in HIS love,