Dr. Jay Hodges
My family loves to get together. Sometimes we look for excuses to meet somewhere and visit together. Years ago, after my dad died, my mother suggested we contact my brothers, one of whom lived in Beaumont, Texas at the time, and agree to meet in Gulf Shores, Ala. for Thanksgiving. We rented a couple of beach condos and cooked Thanksgiving dinner. It was a wonderful time.
Linda and I have always enjoyed hosting dinners for people we enjoy, and often we host people we don't know when their friends invite them along. It has always been delightful. We learn about where people have grown up, what experiences have shaped them to become who they are, and before long we have made new friends.
In our churches one of the things most of us pay attention to is the greeting of visitors. Most churches have “official greeters,” who will be stationed at the door or even in the parking lot to greet people as they come in, direct them to Sunday School classrooms or to the sanctuary. It is often called the “hospitality ministry.” If someone visits a church and does not feel welcomed, they will rarely come back.
It is certainly easy to be hospitable to people you like and enjoy already. When friends gather conversation can flow easily, and we don't have to worry about what the other might be thinking about us. Who doesn't like to get together with friends?
But Jesus took the idea of hospitality a step further than most of us would be comfortable with. He said things like, “What good have you done if all you do is invite your friends to be with you, people who can return the favor? Why don't you invite strangers and the poor?” Well, I can think of about a dozen reasons right away.
He said, “Forgive those who hurt you, and do it over and over if need be.” Most of us would say, “You hurt me and we're done!”
This is called radical hospitality, and I have to tell you, it is not what most people would care to do. However, when we do practice radical hospitality, it points the way to the healing of nations.
Radical hospitality pushes us to see the other person, not through our own lenses of judgment, but through the lens of love, care and compassion. The emphasis of radical hospitality is not that someone get to know you so much as it is that you come to know and care about them. In the process, you both come to know and care about each other. Jacques Cousteau said that if you want world peace, let our children from different countries play together. They will become friends, and the idea of war would be unimaginable. It could be that Jesus was right!
Dr. Jay Hodges can be contacted at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com.