Jesus Christ practiced radical hospitality.
What does it mean to practice “radical hospitality?”
For Christ and the disciples, it meant relying upon the hospitality of others to fulfill their service and missional life. Within three of the four Gospels, Christ gives authority to the disciples and sends them out without means or resources, asking them to rely upon the hospitality of strangers to fulfill their mission (Matthew 10:6-16, Mark 6:6b-13, Luke 9:1-6).
I believe the radical component of Jesus’s hospitality is rooted in urging the disciples to survive and pursue their mission through being received by others. This kind of radical hospitality creates a more balanced relationship between the disciples and the people they serve. In a culture driven by honor and shame codes, where people like those Christ and the disciples served were being exploited, Christ emphasized developing mutual relationship with people opposed to brushing them off or giving handouts.
Jesus Christ’s radical hospitality is based on being in service with others, not solely for or to others.
When we enter into a mutual relationship of service and missional lives with others, we retain our own unique identities as individuals and yet enter into a shared reality with each other and God. This dynamic is different than just offering resources to other people.
Which is not necessarily a negative thing to do, right?
If whatever act of service we find ourselves participating in limits our ability to be in a mutual relationship with, equally communicate with, or receive hospitality from those who are being served, then we are not practicing radical hospitality.
Every week, the Dietrich Bonhoeffer house, like every Epworth house, opens its doors to receive others from its local community for a community meal. The neighbors that Bonhoeffer happened to welcome each week have included and continue to include homeless friends from around the area. A beautiful practice took shape when I lived there: before, during, and after our meals, the residents and our guests, homeless or otherwise, all contributed in one way or another to prepping for the meal, cooking, and cleaning afterwards. This dynamic was and continues to be a part of radical hospitality.
The beautiful and frustrating thing about the Gospel’s lesson for practicing hospitality is that it extends to all of us, regardless of our ethnic or socio-economic makeup. We are encouraged by God to enter into mutual relationships of care and love with others, especially those around us who are often forgotten and pushed aside in our world. Part of our journey through justifying grace in the missional life involves experiencing these uneasy and challenging parts of the Gospel that attempt to reorder our lives toward following Christ. We become justified in a communal sense through how we live out and rely upon Christ by participating in hospitality with others around us. Our salvation is not individual, we are inextricably linked with one another by grace. This a grace that moves us to experience new depths of human love and compassion by divine means.
However, I always feel challenged and struggle with the lesson Christ extends to the disciples – how am I receiving hospitality with others I am in relationship, service, and life with? Is it enough to open our doors to others in our local community and not ever venture out into the streets to be welcomed by our neighbors and shown what life entails from other people’s perspectives?
Again, I am left challenged, as I think many of us are, with understanding what radical hospitality with others truly embodies within our local communities.
How will we respond with others as we journey together in radical hospitality?
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
- What resources around you, either personal or communal, may be keeping you from practicing radical hospitality?
- Who are the people or where are the places in your local community that God may be calling you to receive hospitality from?
- In what ways are you currently practicing radical hospitality with others? In what ways could you be?