Hospitality Is Not What You Think It Is (Sharing Our Story with CBC — Part 2)
In this three-part series, I am letting you know what I shared with the congregation of Community Bible Church (in Savannah, GA) a couple of months ago. I was asked to share our story of living in Allendale, as a part of their teaching on James 1:26-27 (regarding looking after the vulnerable of our society).
Here is the second part of my talk.
Last time, I set the context of Allendale, with respects to its demographics. Then, I focused on the issue of how generational poverty involves a lack of hope. When our “neighbors” don’t have a hope that life can or will change for the better, what do we need to do?
We need to be the body of Christ, and share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Your Presence, Not Your Presents
A lasting hope does not come by writing a check, or donating your used clothes, or by telling people, “You need to work harder and get an education,” or even by teaching a Bible story and doing an altar call. Yes, those things may be needed, but you can’t start (or stop) there.
What is needed is for the body of Christ to come alongside and to show love. People need your presence more than they need your presents.
More Than Hospitality
I’m going to make a lot of you mad with this, but here we go . . .
A bunch of you say that you have the “spiritual gift of hospitality.” But here’s the thing: YOU DON’T.
I know. You took that spiritual gift test at your church, and everyone knows that you love having people over. But you DO NOT have the spiritual gift of hospitality.
How do I know? Because “hospitality” is never listed anywhere in the Bible as a spiritual gift.
Sure, you like having people over for dinner and parties. That’s great. Keep doing that. But that is not hospitality.
The Greek word (in the Bible) for hospitality is philoxenia. Literally it means “love strangers like a brother.” It has nothing to do with hosting parties and small group Bible studies at your house.
Hospitality is not a specific spiritual gift, but a command and encouragement for all of us to obey.
My Bodyguard, My Host
A guy named Mike Smalls, an African-American man whom I only met once before I moved in with him, let me live with him for three months, before my whole family was able to move to Allendale. Every week, when I drove in on Sunday night or Monday morning, I had clean sheets on my bed, plus a clean towel and washcloth.
After I got my first paycheck, I left him some money and a note of appreciation. When I saw him next, he told me, “Thanks. But don’t do that again.” Because he could crush me with one arm, I obeyed him.
Mike loved me like a brother, even though we were strangers in every respect except in Christ. He modeled John 13:35 to me and to this community:
“By this all people will know that you’re my disciples, if you love one another.”
Be “In Meat”
Here’s your next lesson in ancient languages. . . .
We talk a lot about the incarnation around Christmas time. When we say that Jesus was incarnate, we are literally saying that He was “in meat.” So, I picture Jesus covered in steaks and hamburger patties.
Yeah, it sounds messy. But incarnation is messy.
Jesus entered into our world. He emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7), and took on flesh / meat. He took on our human fleshly weaknesses.
Similarly, if we are going to show love, to be in community, to enter into someone’s brokenness and pain, it will be messy. And it will be uncomfortable.
Not Always on Your Turf
When some of my football players went to Palmetto Boys State last summer, one of them tweeted after they arrived, “There are like 7 black guys here.”
I responded, “Now you know how I feel in Allendale.”
If you are going to follow the example of Jesus and be incarnational, and if you are going to show true Biblical hospitality, you have to get past the idea that it will be easy.
Living out the gospel will be messy, uncomfortable, and it will usually mean you step outside of your comfort zone.
But that’s what we should expect. We shouldn’t expect to feel too comfortable in this world, since it’s not our true home. The apostle Peter tells us that we are aliens and strangers in this world (I Peter 2:11).
When you engage into someone’s life, and it feels a little uncomfortable, let that remind you that this world is not your home. And let it remind you that there are many others out there who can be drawn closer to God’s presence through your hospitality and incarnation.
Be sure to come back as I will conclude this series in my next post. I will share the most important thing that we’ve learned in Allendale.
For now, check out these related posts: