By Aaron Israel
Consider with me a story found in the Gospel of Luke. In this passage, Jesus is dining (along with several other guests) at the home of a “prominent Pharisee.” At some point during the dinner party, Jesus says this to his host:
“…when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back, and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:12-14
Take a moment, and reflect on your life through the lens of what Jesus says here. How often do you practice hospitality? How often do you invite people into your home, into your life? And how often do you invite someone who isn’t a friend, family member, or a well-respected member of your community?
When Jesus told the Pharisee to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” he was describing people viewed as the most undesirable in society. The marginalized. The outsiders. When you host a dinner party, do you ever ask, who is the most undesirable person I could invite? I sure don’t. Yet this is the radical hospitality that Jesus calls us to embody. To invite a stranger, a homeless person, a societal outcast, or maybe even a personal enemy into our home to break bread with us. Practicing this type of hospitality may seem daunting or even scary, but it is an essential part of what it means to participate in the upside-down kingdom of heaven that Jesus preached. It is hospitality that shows no favoritism, hospitality that affirms the full humanity and infinite value of those who society deems less than.
In her book “The Gospel Comes With a House-Key,” Rosaria Butterfield describes Christian hospitality thusly:
“Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God.”
Picture what it would look like if Jesus’ followers everywhere began to take this seriously. Imagine if our homes were known in our neighborhoods as the homes where anyone and everyone is welcome. Homes where surprising friendships are formed and lives are changed – where a beautiful tapestry of love is woven through good food, laughter, and deep conversations.
If this vision is to become a reality, it starts with you and me, in our local communities. If you are reading this, I challenge you to take a step of faith this holiday season. Who is someone in need or neglected who you can invite into your home? But don’t stop there…how can you incorporate radical hospitality into your weekly or even daily schedule? If you struggle to envision what this could look like, I recommend reading the book I quoted earlier in this article, “The Gospel Comes With A House-key”.
Practicing the hospitality that Jesus asks of us is risky, but worth it. Scripture is clear: we cannot love people the way Jesus loves without risk. We must embrace the risk to follow him, and be transformed. If we embrace the risk, both our lives and others will be forever changed.
“Continue in brotherly love. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:1-2
Aaron Israel is a campus minister working with Ratio Christi at Appalachian State University. Aaron enjoys deep conversations, good books, music, adventure, and blessing others through creativity. He is committed to the vision of creating organic discipleship communities that bring together unlikely people.
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