I am not a country music fan, not really. A little bit, sure, but not much. I only mention it because I was visiting my dad and he had country music playing as I was meditating on hospitality, and between these things, the title of this post seemed to present itself to me like a bad country song.
I am no musician either, so I will not be writing the song, but I can almost hear it in my head, and it is helping me think more deliberately and creatively about the role of hospitality in God’s kingdom rule.
All my thoughts suddenly and closely approximate the romance of country music. That almost magical spell that comes over a man and a woman who meet and find themselves drawn to one another by “love at first sight,” as we sometimes call it. There is something healing, something right, something mystical about opening yourself up to one another in evermore risky layers of vulnerability. No guarantee it will be reciprocated, but enough hope and expectation of it that once the encounter is entered, the process elicits reciprocity in mysterious ways.
What if the image of God revealed from within you toward other image bearers elicits revelation in others? And what if revealing God requires humble vulnerability and love, the kind that naturally unfolds on the stage of hospitality?
When you invite a person into your home, you make yourself vulnerable to them. When you seat them at your table, you share your life’s sustenance in that vulnerability. When you lodge that person in your guest room, you demonstrate uncommon trust/faith. When that person reciprocates, plays the role of a gracious guest, you call this process “family.” In fact, this is a process my parents shared with my grandparents in our home many times growing up, and which we shared when we visited my grandparents, and it was always considered a very special treat.
So what happens when we share this with strangers?
Hospitality done well (and especially done well by both hosts and guests) turns strangers into friends, enemies into brothers, and fear into faith. It involves risk, but so does romance (and judging by the sales of country music songs, there is no shortage of people trying to do that). Risk can be mitigated, but it must not be eliminated, and attempts at eliminating it kill the hospitality, and thus the potential transformation of strangers into friends.
Hospitality is the stage upon which God’s transformative power unfolds. Jesus sends out 72 missionaries taking nothing with them, no supplies, with an expectation that they will find hospitality and unfold the Gospel message on that stage. Hospitality is not the only place the drama of Gospel salvation unfolds, but it is perhaps the main one and perhaps the most powerful. A world-changing insight here.
When was the last time you experienced the transforming power of the Gospel??? Whether receiving the blessing of salvation for yourself or revealing it to others?
Does your church have an evangelism program?
Oh, they do???
So, you are trained to hang out down at the mall approaching complete strangers with a Gospel message about how they are hell-bound sinners if they don’t listen to you instruct them on the love of Christ?
How is that working?
Oh, you send your kids on a service project mission to Mexico to build a house or to LA to feed the homeless in a soup kitchen?
How many deep and abiding, Christ-centered, personal relationships have you and your kids cultivated doing that over the years?
Wow! That many?
How many souvenir tee shirts do you have from those short term mission trips?
Wow! That many?
Every invite a bum into your home to eat and take refuge?
What difference do you think THAT would wake in a bum’s life? In your life?? In your Christian home???
Sounds risky, huh?
And it is. But powerful too. But you would not know that if you spend all your missional energy trying to eliminate the risk, trying to keep social and economic lines in the cultural sand well preserved and protected rather than erased and rendered meaningless.
Think about it.
How can I get the image of God in me together with the image of God in you? And what if the image of God is born supremely on a Roman cross?
Think about it.