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"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - 1 Chronicles Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
Hospitality is constantly being threatened in my home. My wife loves it. She wants to roll out the red carpet, make a delicious dinner, and open up the front door for just about anyone she can. But there are four juice spilling, mud tracking, furniture breaking kids in my house that keep her hospitable efforts at bay 24 hours a day.
If God wants us to use hospitality (which Scripture does say), then the devil wants to undercut it. And I don’t think Satan is knocking over juice cups or breaking down the springs in my couch. I think he’s using different tactics. Here are a few things he throws at me.
Pride - Sometimes I think I have to present a perfect house to someone if they’re coming over. I want the house to look nicer than it is. I want my guests to get the perception that my house is always that clean. That’s actually impossible--so I end up rarely inviting people to the house.
Social Anxiety - Honestly, it’s easier for me to live life in isolation. I get nervous about meeting new people. I worry about what to say or how to engage conversationally. So it’s easier to just not invite people over.
Laziness - I’m probably more selfish in my home than any other location. It’s the place that I want to kick up my feet, sit around with no shirt on and eat potato chips all day. (You can’t pull that off at work, right?!) So I devalue hospitality out of a sheer laziness for prepping my house for guests.
God said hospitality is an incredibly useful tool for showing people the Good News of Jesus. When we let the enemy derail our efforts to be hospitable, we’re thwarting God’s efforts to expand His Kingdom.
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “ ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” - Matthew 21:16 (NIV)
My house is always full of kids. And not necessarily my own offspring. One day I went to my bathroom in my bedroom and as I went to shut the door behind me, I was startled by a five-year-old neighbor kid climbing through the window. She said no one answered the door when she knocked and she knew we were home! But that’s the norm in my house. There’s a steady flow of what one of my neighbors refers to as “suburban yard rats” in and out of my house. But I don’t see them as yard rats. I love ‘em. I love kids. They just make me laugh. Jesus loved kids, too. He was always speaking value into them and about them to adults.
Kids are low hanging fruit in the realm of hospitality. Last week, one of our neighbor kids, who probably lives a less fortunate life than my own children, came over for dinner. He ate seven grilled cheese sandwiches. SEVEN!? He kept saying, “Ms. Angie, you make the best grilled cheese!” Angie and I talked about his joy and blessedness that came from the simplicity of melted cheese on wheat bread. But he got a glimpse of Jesus that night. To him, it was a feast.
I think we should all be more hospitable to God’s kids. And, honestly, it’s not that hard.
"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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27 (NIV)
Just a few weeks back I had my first flat tire in years. I was blazing down the back roads to our Lexington Campus with a couple kids in the minivan when I heard that “blump… blump… blump,” sound from the rear passenger side. We pulled over and I said to my boy, “Well, this is a good time for you to learn how to change a tire!” But, instead, ol’ Dad gave him a lesson in what not to do. I jacked the van up before I loosened the lug nuts on the wheel. So it was teetering on three wheels when I was cranking and yanking on those tight bolts, nearly knocking the whole van off the jack. I swallowed my pride, told my boy I had done it out of order, lowered the jack and started all over again. Within minutes of doing things in the correct order, we were back on the road.
Jon talked about our discipleship strategy this Sunday. It’s this triangle that talks about being with Jesus, in Community, and on Mission. But, hear this; Jesus comes first. You may find Jesus through serving people or doing community with people. But once you find Him, you need to work toward knowing Him. Is your life in order? Are you starting with loving Him before loving all others? Are there relationships in your life that you allow to compete with Jesus? He should be first. Are their relationships that seem dysfunctional and you want more stability? He might bring stability in those relationships once you put Him as numero uno.
"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!" - Psalms 133:1 (NIV)
For seven weeks this summer, I woke up at about 6:15 on Saturday morning to throw my mountain bike on my truck and go meet some Southland guys for some early trail time. I timidly jumped into the new Southland Groups strategy with the hopes of meeting other guys from church who loved mountain biking as much as I do. And though I didn’t know what to expect, when I actually got there that first week, my mind was blown. The first week we had twelve fellas, standing over their bikes in the dirt, praying for God to bring fruit to our lives through these new relationships.
As the weeks went by, we quickly became comfortable with one another. We went from complete strangers to friends. Conversations quickly jumped from tire choice, bicycle frame materials, and suspension options to something much deeper and more relevant. We began sharing about anxieties at work, tensions at home and ways we, as men, could improve as husbands, dads, and followers of Jesus. The unifying presence of Jesus took us from strangers to friends. To be completely honest, I was nervous going into it. I get lots of social anxiety and I was terrified of awkward silences, bad jokes and oversharing. But by the end of the semester, I was preaching, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people mountain bike together in unity!”
How much risk are you taking for community? If you’ve got a solid community, are you working to expand that and offer it to folks who don’t? If you don’t have community, are you creating opportunities to find it, even if it makes you uncomfortable?
- Pray about and consider starting your own Southland Group. Mine was mountain biking. What’s yours? Go to www.southland.church/groups and click “Start a Group.”
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." - Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
While thinking about the discipleship strategy this week, I gave some attention to the collision of being “in community” and “on mission.” I thought about friends of mine who have served me and those I’ve had the opportunity to serve. Within minutes, I saw how much serving is intertwined with community.
Will helped me fix the brakes on my car. I got to fix Mike’s bike. Sharon took my kids out to dinner so Angie and I could have a date. Angie and I took Lindsay’s kids to dinner while her husband was out of town. Neil let me borrow his drain auger. I let Nate borrow my circular saw. Craig bought my lunch. I bought Chris’ coffee. Lana sent me an encouraging email. I wrote a card and sent it to Jeremy. The list could go on and on.
Making your community your mission makes your community better. How are you at serving those people that you call your friends? In my house, we always say, “Be the friend you want your friends to be.” It starts with you. If you want more intimacy, closeness, and joy in your relationships, introduce serving into your community. Don’t ask, “What can my friends do for me?” Ask, “What can I do for my friends?”
- Do something for a friend this weekend. Send a text right now to let them know you’d like to watch their kids or treat them to coffee. Write a note to encourage them. Ask them if there’s a project around their house they could use some help with. In God’s community, we serve one another in love. Make that a priority today.