Sunday September 20, 2015 | Seth McCoy
2 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
God clearly shows amazing hospitality towards us from Genesis through Revelation, and yet we rejected Jesus, and we continue to reject countless others day by day. We have a superiority issue that Jesus confronted throughout his ministry, and he taught us to live a better way. It’s time for us to learn and practice some genuine hospitality!
The “Throughline” that we’ve been talking about in this series is God’s love – we should do nothing that doesn’t look like God’s love. Because we believe in a Jesus-looking God, we should be a Jesus-looking Church full of Jesus-looking people. But how are we going to carry that out?
One important practice that followers of Jesus need to develop (and one that churches like ours don’t often do well) is hospitality. We’ll define hospitality as “making space for someone when you don’t have to”.
The Bible begins with hospitality, as God created a place for us even though he didn’t have to. He made the universe, a planet, a garden – then he put us in the garden and invited us into his family. The Bible also ends with hospitality – with Jesus going to prepare a place for us, and in the book of Revelation God is building a house with many rooms for us, even though he doesn’t have to.
We certainly haven’t done anything to deserve to be in God’s family, or to deserve to have God bring us home to live with him forever – but God practices hospitality by loving us and honoring us even though he doesn’t have to. It’s heartbreaking to see that between those two Biblical narratives about God’s hospitality, we read the story of Mary and Joseph – Jesus’ parents who, despite her being pregnant and ready to give birth, not one single person welcomed into their home. Is that how we thank God for his hospitality to us?!
During Jesus’ ministry, he often confronted humanity’s “disease” of superiority. Imagine Jesus – God in the flesh coming to serve us – seeing us flawed and judgmental people constantly putting others down, taking the best seats for ourselves, and so on… So Jesus told lots of “anti-superiority” stories – like “The Good Samaritan”, where a man that the people looked down on practiced loving hospitality when even a Priest did not. And “The Woman at the Well” tells of Jesus practicing hospitality with a woman who clearly held the lowest of standings even among her own people, who themselves were often seen as subhuman. Jesus rejected his cultural norms and risked even his own life to show hospitality to people who didn’t deserve it.
In fact, God does that with all of us, doesn’t he?! How many of us deserve the gracious hospitality that God continues to offer all of us year after year? As soon as we meet someone who we think doesn’t deserve our gracious hospitality, we would do well to remember how God treats us…
Recent Pew research shows that young people are leaving the church in record numbers, and most churches are trying to figure out how to keep them in the church. Seth came across an article recently that said there are 2 ways to keep sheep in a pen – fence them in, or dig a well. Seth suggests that most churches are trying to fence people in, and suggests that we get intentional about digging a well so that people who come here can drink living water. We also must practice hospitality, like scooting in to give others the better seat – and not just the people who can give us something in return, but anyone and everyone we meet. To be a Jesus-looking church, we must treat others like God treats us!