As we become more aware of the needs in our community -- the needs of our invisible neighbors -- and face the fact that circumstances do not appear to be changing anytime soon, we have four choices:
Close our eyes and hope that we stop being so aware;
* Assume that the government, even with all of its cutbacks and budget woes, will handle it;
* Pray that the church – specifically another church, you know, one more suited to that neighborhood – will step-up;
* Believe that the Bible’s message of caring for others applies to “me and mine” so I begin to extend Christian hospitality to those within my reach.
Original, authentic Christian hospitality was actually a lifestyle that emerged immediately after Pentecost when the Spirit was poured into all believers. Acts 2:42-46 relates the preaching and miracles that ensued. Believers met together and shared all they had, even if it meant selling possessions in order to give to those in need. And the breaking of bread! -- BBQs and dinners where everyone was invited to come and share. The common themes were community, benevolence, accommodation, and celebration. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
The term Christian fellowship comes to mind. Not because it is a “church” word but because in the Greek it is translated from the words that mean “sharing in the lives of other believers”.
Later in the book of Acts, hospitality was the way that believers cared for their leaders who would travel from town to town sharing the Gospel and inviting others into fellowship. Inns were notoriously dirty and dangerous places in those days. You wouldn’t allow someone you cared for or respected to stay in one. You would take them home with you so you could care for them and keep them safe. In some of the Epistles, those who exemplified abundant hospitality were actually identified by name: Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3-5) and Nympha (Colossians 4:16) to name just a few.
Christianity was a home-centered movement that was more comfortable around a kitchen table than in temple courts. Converts who were new to the faith learned countless lessons from mealtime discussions and their caring treatment while in the homes of others.
In today’s Western world, comfortable meeting places, spacious sanctuaries, all equipped with the latest in AV equipment, are a far cry from the private meeting places in homes of the first century. Don’t you wonder if the freedom to worship in public and the abundance of facilities has dampened the desire for the kind of radical hospitality that made the New Testament church powerful and compelling, yes, even unpredictable?
Often we mistake hospitality for entertaining. Entertaining has presentation overtones; it is about inviting people into your house. Hospitality is about inviting people into your life; even when there are dishes in the sink, there is mail on the counter, or dog hair on the couch. It isn’t about me looking good – it is all about others being cared for.
Here’s a surprise: hospitality is not just for women! Men, too, can practice hospitality;
if they are clean…if they don’t smell…if they don’t smoke…if they are white…if they are citizens…if they speak English…if they don’t have tattoos…if they are interested in Christianity…
Are you ready to take a step toward opening up and sharing yourself and your life with another? Would you like to learn more about how to do it?
Invisible Neighbors: If you don’t see them, you’re not looking
This curriculum will challenge you to take a look at the Bible’s perspective on the poor, the current social issues that affect poverty groups, and how we can take responsibility for helping our neighbors. With a combination of DVD presentations, group discussions, and thoughtfully researched narratives, you will not finish this study unaffected. Whether you are taking your first step or your next meaningful step, you will find inspiration for taking action and getting involved.
To get a preview copy or copies for a whole study group, contact your local Gospel Rescue Mission.