Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Living Well In The Emerging Milieu 3 (DMin)

The question of the previous DMin posts was "How Shall We Then Live?" We looked at living incarnationally and simplifying our lives. The third response is hospitality.

3. Hospitality.

Hospitality was such a key concept in the first century church and should be today as well. When looked at closely, the hospitality aspect of the first century really captures the imagination. Hospitality is sometimes spoken of in our churches as if it is something optional, that we would be hospitable if it were our passion or gift. But the whole New Testament makes little sense without hospitality at the core of how the church developed. The ministry of Jesus was dependent on the hospitality of those around Him (Mary and Martha, Peter's mother-in-law, etc.).

The church was dependent on the hospitality of those in whose homes the church actually met. Hospitality is not an extra but the strategic central concept of the first two hundred years of the church. The household was where the church was embodied and it was actually the medium of the early church growth. We need to challenge the reluctance to show hospitality, or to show only the hospitality that is limited to family and friends, or the marginalization of household hospitality in favor of mega church programs and fellowship.

Shane Claibourne says it this way: “…as congregations build larger buildings, gyms and food courts, we find ourselves less likely to meet in homes, and kitchens, and around dinner tables. We end up centralizing worship on corporate space or on (a church) campus. Hospitality becomes less of a necessity and more of an optional matter – a convenient privilege. On the other hand as members open their homes and yards and share vehicles and recreations spaces less and less corporate property is necessary.

In many ways this is counter-cultural teaching, but Christians need to excel in this virtue and transform it into a distinctly Christian principle. We are called to a higher level of living than the society around us and so must live as relational people. A commitment to hospitality confronts our society's rampant individualism and it actually protects our life together as the people of God. The challenge remains: can we break out of the individualistic culture around us (and deeply ingrained in us) in order actually practice what is commanded?

No comments: