Radical Hospitality

On Sunday, September 1st, I spoke about “Radical Hospitality” as one of the most important practices of the church. I mentioned that hospitality begins by identifying those who are outside the community of faith, then praying for them, getting to know them and inviting them to some aspect of the church. I also quoted from Adam Hamilton’s book, LEADING BEYOND THE WALLS, in which he posits the following: “every church, every Christian should be clear about the answers to three questions: l. Why do people need Jesus Christ? 2. Why do people need the church? 3. Why do people need this church? Since then I have enjoyed several conversations with many of you about these three questions. First of all, thank you for your stimulating thoughts; and second, I would like to urge you to reconnect with these three questions, to think about them and to share your thoughts with someone. And then consider how they might guide you into becoming a more hospitable Christian.

First, Why do people need Jesus Christ? Good question. What do you think? Let me share with you some of my thoughts, by no means exhaustive ones. When I consider all the religions of the world, I find the concept of God’s becoming human as an expression of God’s love to be most compelling. In Jesus Christ, we see and experience God with us. Coming to know God’s revelation in Jesus Christ leads us into a relationship with Jesus. In this relationship with the one who sums up the Scriptures in the great commandment to love God and neighbor, the one who sacrificially suffers and dies for us on the Cross, and the one who provides the pathway to eternal life in the resurrection-in this relationship I discover and experience the assurance of God’s faithful love for us. This truth-that God loves us and has proven his love in Jesus- has changed and continues to strengthen my life.

Second, Why do people need the church? Another good question. Let me begin by acknowledging the imperfections of the church. While the Church belongs to Jesus Christ, God welcomes us sinners into it and we have a tendency to distort God’s purpose and intent for his church. I understand how many people are turned off by the church; I, myself, am turned off by the church sometimes. In spite of this reality, I see a broader picture of the church. I see God’s vision of his church as the Body of Christ, and I am heartened when I keep my eyes focused on Jesus’ vision, even though we don’t always live up to it. In my experience, the church is the best laboratory to live out Jesus’ commandment to love one another. This is hard to do. Some people are difficult to love; at the same time I need to realize that I too am difficult to love sometimes. I am glad you/others have not given up on me, that you have continued to love me through thick and thin. The church is the place, the lab in which I keep learning how to love others. That’s good for me, and for our society and world. (That’s why I am disappointed when I see the church doing otherwise.) God has created us for community so that we might help one another learn how to love each other. Someone once told me that they considered themselves spiritual but did not want to be a part of the church. I understood where they were coming from, but I suggested to them that they might try to nurture their spirituality alone, but eventually the world would make that hard to do by themselves. I have found that I can best nurture my spirituality in community with others. Finally, I need the church because our enormous positive impact around the world points me to a vision of hope for life and our future.

Third. Why do people need this church? Covenant? Again, good question. Let me begin by saying that I do not believe Covenant is better than other churches. My observation is that we all contribute something to the wider Body of Christ. Nevertheless, I am part of Covenant and been blessed to live and grow in faith in this community. I have discovered people who love me and my family, serve and encourage us. I have also been encouraged by so many of you who have been winsome examples of what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. I thank you for showing me the way. I have also discovered ways I can use my gifts to serve others both within Covenant and beyond. As a result of these things, my life has been richly blessed. My life has been changed for the better, for good.

As you think about your answers to the abovementioned questions, consider what your life might look like if you were to become an agent of radical hospitality. Think about it.

Blessings Upon You These Days,

Hal