** Pro Tip: Remember to share your reflections on this topic on social media using the hashtag #whYouBeforeMe **
We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. In fact even the word Samaritan is one that has saturated our culture, being used to name hospitals, schools, law offices, etc. We think of a Good Samaritan as being a “good person” which of course is true, but today Osheta encourages us to look a little deeper.
The story goes like this, as found in Luke 10:25-37
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Samaritans (people from an area north called Samaria) had no dealings with the Jews and were broadly disliked, even referred to as dogs. And yet notice that a Samaritan is exactly who Jesus held up as the hero of the story, giving us our first clue of the radical implication of this story.
First let’s step back and think about, who is the outsider? When we ask people who feels themselves to be outsiders, the answers can be surprising, revealing that we are surrounded by people who feel this way. Things like infertility, being single, or overweight, or having an autistic child all are things that people report make them feel like an outsider.
The truth is, loneliness is so pervasive it is an epidemic that we are plagued with all around us. And as we have learned in this series, as the body of the church, we are called to be the ones to welcome all those who are outsiders and say to anyone and everyone: YOU BELONG.
But before we can do this, we have to have eyes to see them where they are (hint: they are everywhere if we learn to look!). We have to be alert. Who is the outsider in this situation? Am I seeing them?
There are Four techniques to keep in mind while practicing Kingdom Hospitality:
1) Kingdom Hospitality moves you from guest to host.
We saw the story said “As he journeyed” and “when he saw him” – these are clues that this meeting was unplanned. The samaritan did not leave the house in the morning planning to rescue someone, he was just in the right place at the right time. But he was not on auto-pilot, his thoughts on himself and his plans — rather he was alert to those around him, which enabled him to notice the man who needed help.
Being a host is a perfect way to think of this mindset. Think of how you are when you host a party. You are acutely aware of those around you — “Here let me take your coat,” or “Can I get you another beverage?” — getting out of our own heads and having awareness to the people around us is key to being present and noticing those around you who might be able to use an encouraging word (or more) from you. Think of every situation as a gathering you are hosting.
2) Kingdom Hospitality resists fear with compassion.
In 1 John 4:18 we read “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells us that “he had compassion.” The word compassion means to share in our suffering — or, “to suffer together.” This is a vital component of overcoming our own inertia or lack of confidence in welcoming, connecting with and taking in with outsiders.
To illustrate, Osheta related a story from when she and her husband lived in New Orleans — her husband had worked with gang members, and he wanted to invite some of the kids over for dinner. At first this was fine and so she set about preparing a meal. But as she was doing this, he came over and gave her full disclosure that the full story was that there had been a turf war going on between the two just earlier that day, which involved gunfire. Upon hearing this, she was angry at her husband for inviting them into their home (since she did not want the risk of violence in their home, particularly with a young child in the home). He responded by saying, “but they are our neighbors and they are suffering” and he wanted to share in their suffering, since this is the only way they could ever be lifted out.
Aside from the outcome of the dinner or the wisdom of inviting someone to your home (which of course requires discernment that is different in every situation), this story is a great example of exactly how compassion works: Just like how you cannot inhale and exhale at the same time, you cannot feel love/compassion and fear at the same time. The more you enter into one, the more the other is driven out! By entering into the suffering of these kids who had only ever known violence and the streets, she and her husband were able to have compassion and enter into their suffering, which had the amazing effect of quelling their fear of inviting them into their home. Fear is the wall that prevents us from connecting, and compassion is the antidote to fear. This is why kingdom hospitality looks radical!
3) Kingdom Hospitality is practiced in the ordinary.
“He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal”
Kingdom Hospitality takes place in ordinary circumstances and in ordinary acts. She told the story of a man on a subway who learned that his son had failed math and was going to be expelled. So he was on the subway studying, trying to understand fractions so that he could go home and teach his son. Seeing this, a fellow rider spoke up and said he used to be a math teacher, so he spent the rest of the ride teaching the man how to properly teach his son fractions.
Kingdom Hospitality doesn’t have to be grandiose to be radical. What are you good at? In what way are you frequently extra prepared (when others might not be)? Use that to practice hospitality. Maybe it’s bringing an extra diaper to the park (or an extra poop bag at the dog park), or having your kid to bring along an extra pencil to school, in case someone else forgets. Kingdom Hospitality does not have to look like inviting someone to live with you, it can and does live in the hundreds of smaller gestures we engage in all throughout the day.
4) Kingdom Hospitality relies on relationship.
When thinking of what Kingdom Hospitality looks like to you, you may be thinking you will go to the tent city on Hiawatha Ave and pass out food and water. And this is great, but probably unsustainable, and the ideal is that it become second nature, a part of our normal disposition. For this, Kingdom Hospitality relies on relationship. This is for two primary reasons: Wisdom and Morale.
Wisdom comes from bouncing an idea off of others who are involved and asking, is this safe? Will it be helpful to people? Do I have the right outlook on this?
And the other purpose of having a community is for morale. You can encourage one another, hold each other accountable, and make the practice more sustainable. God is a relational God. He never intended for us to practice Kingdom Hospitality on our own. This is meant to be done in groups.
If you don’t currently have a community to serve with, at Woodland Hills we have many ways to serve in community — The Refuge, Growth Groups, Project Home, Wednesdays Together, The Tap, The Lift, many more! Take a look at the Practicing Hospitality handout for a complete list of all the service/connecting opportunities we have at Woodland Hills.
Get involved and bring in others to connect with and serve with you — And remember to try and model our groups to mimic how God indwells within the trinity (the dance of Perichoresis as we learned in earlier sermons of this series) — Be in service TO each other, be served BY each other, and serve WITH each other!
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