Reading Reflection:

Tim Blackmon, (Sept/Oct, 2011). The Dangerous Act of Hospitality.  Modern Reformation Magazine, Vol. 20, #5 , 41-42 What a great issue Modern Reformation put out this month! In this article, Blackmon gives a passionate case for why Christians especially should be hospitable. Unfortunately, with technology and lifestyle changes, hospitality seems to be more of a degree you get in college to run a business than inviting someone into your home. Here is an excerpt from his article:
…I am discovering that hospitality is not only the most natural response to the gospel, but it is also a practice our world desperately needs. I’ve spent most of my ministry in California. Many of our neighbors feel pressured to live increasingly fast, mobile, and private lives. Divorce, blended families, and life lived at a breakneck speed in tight margins often contribute to a wide variety of relational fractures. While they might work hard at keeping up with the Joneses family, they rarely ever eat with them. Too often, they don’t even eat with the people who happen to reside at the same address. If and when they are home, they often eat alone, or they eat on the run in the car. Their lives are so private they have to survive with few, if any, life-giving relationships. Because of this, people are desperately hungry for welcome. They long to be welcomed into a church and into a home.
I found this to be especially true when I had my coffee shop. It became a community. Customers became friends as they sipped their coffee and talked about their lives. I realized that people were coming for more than a cup of coffee. We had sort of become like a non-alcoholic Cheers. But I digress…Blackmon continues:
I now serve an international church in The Hague in the Netherlands. This is a city where people from over one hundred different countries have come to live. Virtually everyone I meet is from somewhere else. They are all strangers. They are not at home. Without a proper welcome, these global nomads can live here for years and still remain strangers. They are sometimes without support structures for when life gets tough. This almost always results in lives marked by deep loneliness. Or worse, these strangers find themselves on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination. Sure, there are institutions and businesses that are in the “hospitality” or “care” industry. They offer the guest—now known as “the client”—undivided attention, for a fee. As a church in this community, however, we are uniquely equipped to offer welcome. We know what it is like to be strangers in the world. We are citizens of another kingdom, pilgrims on the way. This prepares us for the hard work of hospitality. In the Old Testament we see that the experience of Israel’s marginality and sojourner identity became a surprisingly rich resource for their own practice of hospitality. “You shall not oppress a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 23:9). Because they know what it was like to be a stranger, they were able to imagine and anticipate the needs and concerns of others who found themselves in a similar situation. This is the story of the Christian community: strangers welcoming strangers. In order for these postmodern social nomads to thrive, our church must recover the ancient Christian practices of hospitality.
I just love writing that both convicts and encourages, and that is what I got from this article. Of course we know that Jesus Christ didn’t just take us in as strangers. We were enemies of God. And he didn’t just send us on our way with provision; he secured our lives by giving his own so that we could be children of God. This article speaks to both the church as an institution, and the church as an organism (part of the theme of the whole magazine issue). As a church, we are the strangers welcoming strangers. The Great Commission bids us to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. This requires much hospitality to proclaim God’s word to the ends of the earth. It also calls us to be hospitable to one another within the church family. Discipleship is more than a doctrinal study (although it is not less). It is centered in relationship with the head, Jesus Christ, and the rest of the body of believers. As an organism of believers scattered during the week, hospitality is a major part of fulfilling the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbor. For his glory, we serve others with our God-given blessings. We invite the neighbor in for a drink, have the kid’s friends over and make some cookies, and maybe even ask a co-worker over for dinner. Especially as a housewife, I see hospitality as a part of my vocation. My mother is a role model for me in this calling. She is one of the most hospitable people I know. I think she learned it from her mother. It is a great expression of Christ’s love to which I aspire.