It’s been quite a few years now that God continues to bring me back in one way or another to Romans 12, speaking of Love in Action. In Romans 12:9-13, Paul says these words:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. 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.
Now, let’s be honest, I think almost each line of this passage could be a sermon all in itself. Maybe that will happen someday, but not today. I feel I have something else that God is trying to help me “verbally process” over the computer. So, let’s get to it…
I am currently in a cohort of missionary women working through different themes: racial righteousness, Sabbath and rest. We are reading together a book called: Healing our Broken Humanity. (Disclaimer, I am only halfway through the book so I am not sure exactly my take-aways yet for the book as a whole), but I will say, the chapter I just finished, Reactivate Hospitality really made me re-think and re-shape some of my thinking. As you can imagine, with a book of this title, there is a lot going on in the book. The main premise for this section was obviously to talk about hospitality, but hospitality in relation to “the other”, people that are different, “them”, “they”. The Western church, in my opinion looks at “the other” very differently than the rest of the world. I feel I can speak to this as my own view of “the other” has been challenged since I have been living in Ecuador. The Church is big, and primarily where it is largest is not in the West, it is everywhere else. The average Christian today is not white, middle class and Western, they are female, brown or black and likely of lower class. The Church is different now than when I was growing up. Guess what? That is good news! It is becoming more diverse. Isn’t that what the call of the Western church was? To go in to the world and evangelize and tell people about the good news? However, it seems that the Western church doesn’t know what to do with those evangelized because they don’t look like them? They are “the other”. The Church around the world is in a unique place to embrace “the other” in an act or rather a command of “PRACTICING” hospitality. The kind of hospitality described in Romans as well as the kind I witness here in Ecuador and hear around the world in black and brown churches is RADICAL. It is messy and hard and requires a cost, but isn’t that what Christ requires of us? He doesn’t expect any more from us than he practiced and lived out himself. We have a perfect example of how to do this in Jesus. So, why aren’t we? (When I say we, I mean the Western church).
I contend that we have a lot to learn. This is one area where we as the White, Western church can throw our hands up and say we need help, and that is OK.
We need new narratives, new stories, new ways of looking at Scripture that is through the lens of “the other”. Again, we can go back to Scripture and follow the Israelites all the way up to Jesus to show us how to do this. Then we can go to our neighbor, “the other” who doesn’t look like us or talk like us, who thinks differently and interprets differently because their story is likely more relatable to that which is in Scripture than we can imagine. We need to read Scripture TOGETHER with “the other” to learn who the Bible was written to. Does this sound odd or scary? Good. Lean in. Push through it because we will be better for it. Listening. Learning. Asking and attempting to understand new narratives and new stories. The refugee, the immigrant, the foreigner, the outsider, the incarcerated, the women. The other. These are all stories we need to hear and listen to. You may wonder why? Scripture calls us to practice, PRACTICE radical hospitality. Not with those who look like us, but with the other. If that is the call, the command, than why aren’t we doing it? Why are we afraid? The time of fear needs to be over, because there is a group of “others” who need the Church. They need radical hospitality and the church is in a prime place to embrace as we were embraced, love as we are loved, cared for, healed and reconciled as we are becoming. Step up Church and be the reconciled, be the ones that show radical hospitality when everything around us in the world tells us to push the others away. Stand up.