Hospitality is Love in Action
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love and honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Ro. 12:9-13).
Henry Nouwen, in his book, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of Spiritual Life, wrote "The church is perhaps one of the few places left where we can meet people who are different than we are but with whom we can form a larger family." The Church can offer a free space to grow into maturity without fear. We should be a place where people are not afraid to be themselves, but are loved and cherished.
The Church should be a place that welcomes all people: the lowly, the outcasts, the drunk, and the homeless, etc. We, as the Church, should be loving to all people. The Church should be a place of healing. Healing is creating an empty, but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their stories and where they can be heard. Nouwen asks whether our spiritual lives reflect the love that God longs for us to share with all people?
Is love the center of our lives, of our churches, of our friendships, and of our families? How can you be hospitable to your neighbor? Your neighbor is not just the one closest in physical proximity, but is anyone in need of love.
When we focus on loving God, we naturally love others. Reaching inward to who God has made us to be in order to reach out and to show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul defines what a Christian's life of active love could entail in verses 11-13 by loving others.
These verses list aspects that one would expect to be part of their life as a believer. But the phrase that sticks out to me is "practice hospitality." Practicing hospitality should reach beyond the walls of the church. The phrase practicing hospitality could also be translated as entertaining strangers, showing hospitality to strangers or to share hospitality. Practicing hospitality is unique, because it links God's love for us and how we should show that love in this world. We are to share the love with God's people and to be hospitable.
To show hospitality is the practice of loving others. One way to be hospitable is to enter the person's story. We should not jump to conclusions or assume something about the person with whom we are talking. My grandma always said, "Assumptions kill a relationship before it starts!"
Assumptions are not a building block for relationships. Another way to be hospitable is to meet people in their stories. The present is what matters. There is no need to condemn the past, but instead to move forward. Meeting people in their current needs is loving people where they are. The present story and how they got to where they are is where we should start. If that is weeping with them, rejoicing with them, or/and loving them. Practicing hospitality is treating all people as images of God or Children of God. It does not matter who they are in their moment of need to show love and hospitality.
Is your church a community that loves without hypocrisy? What is your church teaching, doing, and living to show love to your neighbor?
A challenge for the new year is to seek at least one relationship to love without hypocrisy to someone whom would not expect it. We are to love God and to love others.
Who is the neighbor that you know who needs to be heard and loved?
Lord, may you give us the patience, strength, and the wisdom to love without hypocrisy. May we meet people in their stories. May you give us the patience we need to listen to their hearts and to hear where they are. May you give us the strength to love no matter what. May you give us the wisdom to know what to say and love without hypocrisy. AMEN.
Rev. Lauren Parliament
Future Leader Minister
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains