The Art of Neighboring: Hospitality

BIG IDEA: We live in a world on the move. We voluntarily relocate for jobs, education, and social mobility, and people constantly relocate involuntarily due to oppression, conflict, and natural disasters. Sociologists have pointed out that displacement and migrancy have become the dominant themes of our age. As the nomads of the modern world, we live increasingly with a sense that we have lost our home, whether that be our society, work, politics, church, or planet. It seems that a fundamental instability and insecurity has invaded us. There are so many of our neighbors, in the apartments next to our own that are in a very literal sense migrants, and in a very equivalent sense, migrants to Seattle…. And Life as a migrant, no matter how long you have lived in a city, can so easily lead to feeling alienated and marginalized, LONELY might be the right word for Seattle. So what do migrants need and what do we need? The answer, hospitality.

SERIES: The Art of Neighboring: What would it look like to love our actual neighbors?

SCRIPTURES:

Romans 12:9-21
9
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • The Bible on migrants: There are a lot of scriptural narratives that feature people on the move.
    • Old Testament: Abraham, Jacob, the Israelites out of Egypt, the Israelites sent into Babylonian captivity, the dispersion of the Jewish Diaspora throughout the Roman Empire. The identity of the people of Israel was fundamentally marked by the reality of being wanderers who had been delivered out of oppression.
    • New Testament: Jesus, and the missionary journeys of the early church. The iconic migration is the incarnation: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Our identification with Jesus, the incarnate One, renders us migrants. Throughout its pages the NT calls us “exiles” and “sojourners” (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). Thus we are in both. We are in Christ and we are in the world. 
  • Christians and Hospitality: Christians of today don’t do hospitality very well, but it should be the mark of a Christian, to see a person who is by definition and experience a stranger and to receive them in such a way as to show them love as you would a member of your extended family or close friend.
  • “Hospitality” the word: The Greek word translated “Hospitality” comes from two Greek roots: 1) XENOS = Stanger, foreigner (literally someone not a family member or close friend) and 2) PHILOS = Love. In a most literal sense, to be hospitable is to receive and to show love to a stranger. That is, someone who is not regarded as a member of the extended family or a close friend.
  • How do we become this true definition of hospitable? Look at Jesus. He was and is the most inviting and hospitable human being that ever lived. Jesus is the manifestation of the Hospitality of God the father in that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us while we were still strangers wrestling with our sin.
  • Christ the Mediator: The true and living God is too much for us to bear. The Incomprehensible One is simply too much for us in every conceivable way. We look at God through Christ, who makes the attributes of God more delightful to us. Take away Christ, the God-man, and we are reprehensible to God and he to us. But in Christ, God is well pleased with us and we with him. We look at God through Christ, who makes the attributes of God more delightful to us.
  • The cross of hospitality: Because we have experienced the hospitality of God through the Cross even when we least deserved it, we must in turn show that same hospitality to our neighbors — those who are now strangers — who may in very real ways might not deserve our love. We show them hospitality even while they also struggle in their sin.
  • Don’t compromise yourself: We should still set boundaries in how we neighbor. When Paul says I become all things to all people, that I might save some, he does so without comprising himself or his new identity in Jesus. We temper the light of Jesus in the same way that Jesus tempers the light of God, so though we are a softer light, we don’t become lukewarm in our faith.
    • Stay salty: The Bible talks about being the salt of the Earth, which is to say that we as Christians are to bring out Christ in the world, so when we neighbor, we still maintain the distinct flavor of Christ by knowing our identity and knowing what we stand for.
    • How should we manifest the distinct character of Christ?
      • Be a man or women of your WORD (treat small promises with the same level of importance as big ones).
      • Have difficult but straight forward conversations with your neighbors.
    • Confidence and character: you need both. Confidence without character leads to domineering neighboring, and character without confidence leads to passive-aggressive neighboring. Both together combine to make an intensity that is attractive and yet not scary.
  • Do compromise your comfort and your reputation: To be hospitable does not require you to compromise yourself, but it might require to compromise your comforts or even your reputation.
    • Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10): This man was a tax collector and hated by all, but Jesus saw something more and invited himself over for dinner. When he did this, people took notice, muttering, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Jesus compromised his reputation to dine with a tax collector. And guess what, he got results! After the dinner, Zacchaeus stood up and told Jesus that he would give half of his possessions to the poor, and pay back 4 times to everyone he had cheated.
    • Relationship > Reputation: Jesus was less worried about his reputation and comfort than he was about developing a relationship with anyone who was interested in being in relationship with him. Be willing to sacrifice in order to develop relationships with the strangers around you, and don’t be afraid to let your reputation take a hit. Jesus did not need to protect himself from the sinners, because he was sent to save sinners. We too are protected, if we — like Jesus — have the Spirit of God with us.
  • Remember the Greatest Commandment: “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Just as we find God in Christ, so it is in God’s sovereign plan of redemption that our neighbors might find Christ through us, his witnesses, his ambassadors, his “little-Christ” (which is actually what the term “Christian” means, a derogatory title first given to the followers of Jesus at Antioch, but embraced proudly by those men and women).
  • Put on Christ: God is the source of all goodness, which flows from God to us by the person and work of Jesus Christ, “God’s hospitality,” and it flows from us to others through “our hospitality” in neighboring. And so if we hope to be effective, we must learn — as the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans — “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” just as God the Son put on flesh.
  • “Putting on Christ” is NOT “putting on a good face.” Putting on a good face will only lead to burn out, in-authenticity, and division of the sou. But when we “put on Christ,” we are in essence putting on the hospitality of Christ, and we become the most inviting, gracious, softest, sacrificial, space-making, interruptible, fearless, version of ourselves.
  • Our Best Selves: We as individuals are not lost in Christ. We are still fearfully and wonderfully crafted by God, still distinct in our own ways. But by putting on Christ, Christ within us is magnified, and we become more inviting, graceful, sacrificial, and hospitable. 

OUR RESPONSE:

    • Put on Christ.
    • Reach out to your neighbors and the strangers in your life. 
    • Love with the hospitality of Christ.
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