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“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” ~Henri Nouwen

Hospitality has become an industry in the USA. We pay someone to treat us like we are valued and important. We pay them to serve us.
But hospitality was an ancient practice which influenced how honored a family was and a virtue for Christians in the early church. Lactantius states:

“What is more consistent with the heart of justice than our affording to strangers through kindness, the things we freely give to our own relatives through affection?”

Early Christians saw the welcome of Christ into the family of God as something we need to reflect to the world. God made room for us in Creation and Redemption. Now we make room for others to express the extravagant hospitality of God to our world.

But as Henri Nouwen states, hospitality is not just about making room for someone else. It is not just an expression of welcome or caring for the need of the one who is in need. Hospitality is creating space for the other person to experience value and love–to experience God and therefore, be changed by the encounter with unconditional love and mercy. We are not the initiators of the change. We are the space creators, the event planner who creates the space for people to encounter our Lord. The space created is not just a one way conversation–like our church services often are–we preach to people. But the space must also respect the dignity and gifts of those who are welcomed. Hospitality recognizes not jus the need of the people but also the gifts of the people. And when a person is not just valued in our service but also valued for what they bring, they experience fully the grace of God. Because in Creation, God partners with humanity to garden Eden. In Redemption, God creates space in His family for us and then partners with us in spreading the Gospel. God’s hospitality not only sees our need for space and redemption but also to use the gifts God has given us.

Unfortunately, too often we get in the way. When we fear that sin will continue if we continue to give to a person or allow them to be part of our fellowship, we close them off to the space where change can happen. When women cannot use the prophetic voice or the gift of preaching, we keep them out from experiencing God’s grace fully. When we dismiss people as heretics, we leave people out from the place of experiencing God–a place for change. John Wesley stated that Anathemas get in the way of loving neighbor. Its not that we cannot disagree, even with passion, but when it gets in the way of hospitality, we keep people from places we experience God.

hospitality_of_abraham

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Mark 15:43 “Joseph of Arimethea took a risk…”

To love is to risk:

to risk rejection,

to risk being taken advantage of,

to risk the pain of loss,

to risk not being loved back with the same passion or compassion.

 

To love is to risk.

Joseph of Arimethea risked reputation, honor, and perhaps even his life as he showed one last act of love for Christ, asking for the body of his Lord to bury respectfully.

How often do I play it safe? I justify not loving someone because they will continue in sin. Or I justify not loving someone because they will just take it for granted or use it and reject it.

But the commandment we have been given is to love. Love God and love neighbor. I will be held accountable for what I have done with the love I have been shown. Have I embraced the love of God shown to me? Have I embraced the love my fellow human beings have shown to me? Have I allowed that love to grow in me, transform me, and shine through me? Or have I used it for my own selfish gains?
I will be held accountable for how I have loved others. Have I sought to love others as I love myself?

But I won’t be held accountable for what people do with the love I share with them. They can reject, use, misuse the love God has given them and the love I show. And they will be held accountable for that. All I am called to do, is love.  I am called to share the love of God as I have been loved. Will I risk everything to love?

In Mark 15:21-32, I read about Simon of Cyrene. Mark called him a passer-by. Simon was in Jerusalem for the Passover–passing by the parade of those to be crucified to celebrate the time God passed over Israel and brought deliverance. Simon was passing by when he was forced to carry Christ’s cross–when he was forced to participate in an injustice. Most of the stories told of Simon of Cyrene have hailed him as a hero, helping Christ carry his burden. I don’t want to take the fact he alleviated the Lord’s burden away, but in honesty, Simon participated unwillingly in the crucifixion of Christ. He was forced to help the Empire execute an innocent man.

How often have I unwillingly, or even willingly, participated in injustice. 

When I have been silent as I heard a racial joke, I have participated in injustice.

When I have kept quiet as someone stated, “this must be a bad neighborhood” and the only difference seen is the race of the people who live there.

When I have locked my doors, clutched my purse, or thought the words “this is a bad neighborhood” based on who I see on the porches.

I have participated in the injustice and created a culture where an armed George Zimmerman would feel the need to follow a young African American boy. I have helped create a culture where Trayvon Martin felt he had to fight for his life. 

I don’t want to be like Simon of Cyrene–a passerby who participates in an injustice, willingly or unwillingly.
Christ have mercy on me for my past participation in injustice.

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