Today I was preaching on Luke 14:1-24. The topic of Luke's text is hospitality. Jesus said some pretty radical things, both to his fellow guests and to the host of the meal he was invited to attend. The summary of his rebuke was that both the guests and the host were using others to gain social recognition, material benefit, and/or security through their relationships. Nobody was there simply to enjoy the company of the other. Their were perverse motives that permeated all aspects of the meal.
The alternative to such usery is hospitality--genuine welcome simply for the sake of loving others. Genuine experience of hospitality is free from the need to use others. It's free from fearing that others are out to use us. It's only possible because Jesus has already provided everything we're after when we use other people in our attempts to gain recognition and security.
This afternoon I've been contemplating the kind of misrepresented hospitality that some non-Christians have experienced at the hands of professing Christians. I've spoken with some who have felt like a target, not like a person. They've experienced the kindness of Christians that seemed only to be shared as bait to get them to listen or to believe. When they failed to convert their Christians "hosts" simply ceased in their "hospitality." I wish I could have the opportunity to speak to each person who's experienced that to say, "We are sorry."
When God's people really begin to live out of God's provision, out of His ultimate hospitality and welcome through Christ Jesus, we are not only freed from using others in attempts to gain recognition or security, but we are freed from simply using our kindness as bait. It doesn't mean that we don't share the gospel with others. Quite to the contrary we do, but even that sharing is because of love for them, not because we've feigned love simply to get a few words about the gospel in while they are paying attention.
A real understanding of God's love and welcome transforms the way we relate to all people. We are free to risk through generosity and welcome because we know that God is the one who gives what we give. Every invitation to receive hospitality can be received with thanks, not with an eye for gain. Every opportunity to show hospitality can be an opportunity to demonstrate and reveal God's goodness, not with an eye for gain.
I'm hopeful that as a community we can really continue to live this out with greater capacity. I'm hopeful that I can live this out with greater capacity. It's very freeing to be able to see others as image bearers and not as steps toward whatever I'm trying to attain. I've got all I need through Christ!