For the next month or so I will have the privilege of relying on the hospitality of others. Many of you know I had open heart surgery on Monday and for the next 8 weeks I am extremely limited in what I can do. The list of things I can't do is quite long...and random. For instance, I can't bat or golf or drive or ride a bike or lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. The fact that my instructions specifically state that I can't swing a bat suggests that someone who'd just had open heart surgery has tried this. Obviously, the part of the brain that deals with judgement was also removed.
But I digress. While I try to remember not to join any street softball games I also need people to cook for me, pick up things I drop, clean for me and rub lotion on my legs. And because I am completely aware of my dependency, I happily relinquish my pride to allow others to do things for me I cannot do for myself.
Of course, if you're really spiritual you're supposed to say that its just too hard for you to accept people doing things for you. You feel too guilty having people bring over a meal or cleaning your house. If you're interviewing for the job as a servant of Jesus this answer is on par with saying your greatest weakness is that you work too many hours--everyone knows that's what you're supposed to say.
Expect that it didn't seem to bother Jesus to be on the receiving end of things. Maybe we need to rethink this.
Separating the Women from the Girls
I believe this is one of God's basic tests in life--Can you accept the hospitality of others or are you too proud to let others care for you? Lest you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at an interaction Jesus has with one of his disciples in John 13:1-8
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
This story has been often used as an example of servant leadership, and I believe that point can be made. However, it seems to me, the issue isn't just the radical nature of Jesus' leadership, but even more in what was required of his followers--to be able to receive. Because salvation comes in the receiving.
This is further displayed when Jesus sends out 72 disciples in pairs to share what Jesus is doing. Here are the instructions he gives them in Luke 10:
4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
These guys are told to completely rely on the hospitality of others. And don't move from house to house to lighten the load. When you find someone who is willing to offer hospitality, stay there. That person is a blessing. All our Western customs are being challenged here.
But, you say, what about that time Jesus says it is more blessed to give than to receive? He did say that, so lets take a look. at Acts 20.
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Here, Paul is saying a last and tearful goodbye to the Christians at Ephesus. He doesn't know what is ahead for him except that the Holy Spirit informs him regularly that imprisonment and affliction await him. And Paul is reminding the church leaders to care for this young church. To shepherd them well and watch out for those who might deceive and harm them. Basically he's saying--do whatever you have to do to make sure people know about Jesus.
And, what I'm saying is...plenty of times, 'whatever it takes' involves the gracious receiving of hospitality.
Jesus and Hospitality
Just a brief look at the life and ministry of Jesus displays his thoughts on hospitality. He was constantly receiving it. I can't recall one instance where Jesus invited people to his home. But you regularly read that he was invited to this home or that home. In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus invites himself to the house of this hated tax collector. That's right, he invites himself!
I get that there were different cultural norms, but you have to admit that by following the way of Jesus you will not find an unwillingness or any hint of a lack of holiness in the act of receiving hospitality.
So this is a season of grace for me. A season of receiving from others what I can't do for myself. And I truly love it! Not because I'm lazy or selfish (although those characteristics do rear their ugly heads occasionally), or feel I need or deserve to be served more than anyone else. But because it gives me a chance to share in the unique and creative gifts of so many of my friends. To see the best in others. The care some take to wrap a gift or the thoughtfulness in their gift-giving or the healthy meals they send or just the fact that they want to participate in caring for someone else. To experience in-the-flesh God's care for me. And my salvation has come in the receiving.
I believe when Jesus walked the earth he lovingly accepted true hospitality. And, so I am compelled to enjoy the hospitality of others--because it is the way Jesus lived.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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