Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hospitality and Our Understanding of Church

About six or seven years ago, I was leading a small bible study in our home in Bellflower, CA. The Bible study was attended by a very ecclectic group of people including three doctoral students from Fuller Seminary and a handful of addicts. One man was a African Anglican priest from Uganda. On one of the last nights before he went home, he said the following, "I love visiting your home. You are the only Americans I know who live like Africans". I took this as the highest of compliments and the confirmation of our vision for the church.

What this African man meant was that "even though you are Americans, you treat the stranger as family in a very practical way". The home is to have a very porous border. This principle needs to be both our belief and our practice.

I live at the church. Literally. I live in a parsonage on the church campus.

When I first started living at the church, I was advised to keep my home as a "sanctuary". I smiled. That is exactly what I do not desire to do. The entire church family in my mind has 24/7 access to our home. There is nothing my wife and I love more than having some lonely man or woman fall asleep on the couch any given night of the week. It is hilarious. I have been in bed when somebody will call and ask if he can bring over ice cream...So we get up, turn on the TV, wake up the kids, and eat ice cream. For someone who has never had intimate family or who longs for connection, such an event speaks more powerfully than 20 sermons on 1 Cor. 13.

Theologically, it must be remembered that the early Christians called themselves, "Brother and sister". These titles are actually true. It is just as true that Joe Congregant is my brother as it is true that my sins are forgiven. As Christians, love experiencing being forgiven. We also need to learn to love living like brothers and sisters in the most literal sense. Such a lifestyle seems strange to some having lived as Americans all our lives, but the reality of it is life and peace. Such hospitality and the opening up of the home is central to the Christian lifestyle and practice. Such practices display a brotherly love that speaks to our participation in the story of redemption. Let the light shine through the porous borders of your home.

God Bless,

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