The church clearly has an image problem. For a variety of reasons, many in the culture view the church with a great deal of skepticism—if not outright disdain. In her book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield captures it per- fectly when she writes, “Let’s face it; we have become unwelcome guests in this post-Christian world. Our children ride their scooters in neighborhoods where conservative Christianity is dismissed or denounced as irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory, and dangerous.” How do we effectively share the good news of Jesus in this increasingly hostile environment?
Jesus made it pretty clear that we are not to fight with the conventional weapons of the world (i.e. military power, intellectual debate or political influence). Instead we are called to love our enemies. Butterfield reminds us of our obligation to extend hospitality and suggests that this is our street credibility with our post-Christian neighbors. Hospitality is literally “the love of strangers.” We might think of having friends over for a BBQ or for the big game. But God has called us to open our homes to outsiders. Leaders in the church are to model this for the church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). But it is the responsibility of every mature follower of Jesus (1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 13:2; Romans 12:13).
I was struck with the seeming tension of “radically ordinary” hospitality. It is ordinary in the sense that it doesn’t require any particular skills. It should happen in the normal rhythm of life. You don’t have to renovate your home or have it professionally cleaned. You don’t have to buy fine china or serve steak and shrimp. But it is radical in the sense that it stands out. People are used to gathering with friends but when they are invited into the home of someone they don’t know, it catches them off guard.
What are you doing to build bridges into your neighborhood? You might uncom- fortable broaching a faith conversation with your neighbor. But what about taking a first step of getting to know them over a warm bowl of soup?
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