Racial Reconciliation and Love Through Hospitality
Can hospitality bring about racial reconciliation, show us the measure of our love, and give us the key to church growth? After listening to Stuart Mcalpine, pastor of Christ Our Shepherd, make these statements in a sermon on hospitality, I’d have to answer with a resounding yes.
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By Galina Hitching
When I think of the terms “missionary” or “Christian ministry”, I honestly don’t think of hospitality. Instead, I envision heroes like Percival Mather who refused to eat anything but rice when on home assignment, or Isabel Kuhn, who climbed to a village holding onto the tail of a donkey in the dark, or my favorite, Pauline Hamilton, who joined mission later in life than most.
Yet, if I look closer at their lives and the lives of others I respect, I can see a pattern of hospitality. They repeatedly reached out in love to those around them, welcoming others into their homes, spending time together and breaking bread.
These (very human) Christian workers aren’t only worthy of respect because of the horrors they faced, the deprivation they embraced, or the amazing things they did. The reality is all of those things can be done in our human flesh without Christ.
Instead, what is compelling about their lives was their ability to love and extend hospitality in situations that seemed unimaginable. Such gracious hospitality can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Hospitality is the key bridge to all racial reconciliation at the beginning of the church” -Stuart Mcalpine
What does hospitality have to do with racial reconciliation? According to Jesus? Plenty. Jesus not only told stories, but lived the reality that hospitality is at the heart of racial reconciliation.
Think about the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, the story of Zacchaeus, the woman at the well. All these stories have racial, religious, and cultural tension, yet at the heart of each story is hospitality.
Racial reconciliation is not a new need. Racial hatred is simply hatred of our brother; it was birthed into the world with the murder of Abel.
Since the Fall, humanity has become increasingly consumed by envy, murder and hate. Were we not all created in the image of God? Yet, we allow our cultures, our families, and our own insecurities and sin to blind our eyes to loving others.
Hospitality requires humility and a setting aside of our pride. Can you imagine what would happen in America and around the world if we as believers humbled ourselves to extend hospitality, especially when it hurts to do so?
Hospitality also has the power to protect against missionary paternalism which is its own kind of racial hatred. If we approach mission by praying, giving or going, with even the smallest belief we are superior in some way, we have entered dangerous territory.
We must approach evangelism and mission with the view of brotherhood. Extending hospitality with humility can guard us against the pitfalls of the hero complex, which makes slaves, not free sons and daughters.
The Measure of Our Love
“Our hospitableness is a barometer of our love” -Stuart Mcalpine
Although duty has its place in helping us be faithful in hard situations, hospitality should never be about duty. The heart of true hospitality must flow out of love, even when it means surrendering ourselves to sacrificial love. Hospitality can be financially, emotionally and even physically difficult for us. Loving others in this way even when it’s difficult is a choice.
We are commanded to love our neighbors (Luke 6:27-28), bless those who persecute us, give to the poor and the needy (Proverbs 19:17), and provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). That sounds a lot like the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, doesn’t it? This kind of love is what hospitality is all about.
“Openness of heart is represented by openness of home” -Stuart Mcalpine
Are we reluctant to extend hospitality? There have been times where I found it difficult to welcome certain individuals into my home. Honestly, at the root of my reluctance was an inability to love. Some people are hard to love, aren’t they?
But, God doesn’t call us to love only those who are easy to love. He calls us to love all people, even our enemies.
More than that, he often calls us to love specific people. The people in your life are there for a reason. When was the last time you extended hospitality to them?
The Key to Church Growth
“If there is no hospitality there is no church growth.” -Stuart Mcalpine
Can hospitality really impact church growth? In the West, we often rely on numbers when we talk about church growth. We want stats to confirm or deny reality, direct our efforts and affirm we’re doing a good job.
Numbers can be great, but the heart of church growth isn’t numbers. It’s people.
As people, we each want to feel accepted, seen, loved. For that to happen, we must set aside the racial, social, generational and religious barriers and begin to extend God’s love to those around us.
As the body of Christ, often we fail to create a safe loving community to welcome new people or take care of our own.
Church growth in the West continues to plummet while growing steadily in countries like Asia, Africa and South America.
As churches in the West focus on becoming more relevant and more edgy, they are losing sight of the simplicity of hospitality.
“Hospitality is the key to reaching neighbors, reaching friends and reaching the world.” -Stuart Mcalpine
As we live our lives, whether overseas or in our home country, let us seek racial reconciliation, greater love, and the growth of the church as we reach the world through our loving hospitality. Ask the Lord how you can extend hospitality to someone this week.
1 Mcalpine is here referring to Paul’s exhortation to Philemon on behalf of the slave Onesimus as found in the book of Philemon.
Galina Hitching is a writer, artist, and wellness geek. She learned more from growing up around missions and traveling as a non-profit worker than she did getting her degree in Communication. Midway, Galina took a detour from her career by working as a Serve Asia volunteer. Today, she is using her four years’ experience in marketing and communication for the Great Commission.
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