Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Editor’s note: Hi all, sorry this is a day late! Yesterday was a busy and rough day for Nathan and me, and I didn’t get a chance to make sure that this post went up. I scheduled it to post yesterday morning, but sometimes WordPress gets a little glitchy. -Sydney
I go to school in a small town. Smaller than small. Main Street (its actual name, by the way) is less than a mile long. There’s a coffee shop, a Chinese restaurant, a pizza place, and dozens of churches. My school sits on the outskirts. Right between broken suburbia and a town that, despite its best efforts, can’t seem to quite get its feet underneath it. Between the quant coffee shop teeming with college students getting their caffeine buzz and the churches that usher people through their wide open door every Sunday, there is a current of sadness. Of despair. A current that speaks to the fact that people are people. Sometimes it’s hard to notice. As a college student, I often forget that a world outside my own, tests, papers, friends, late-night ice cream runs, exists. People refer to it as “the bubble.” People here mean the bubble of college, but when we get right down to it, I think we all live in our own little bubble. We live in a world whose values contradict those of the gospel. Where the gospel recounts the oldest story in history, the world values all things new; new and shiny and gleaming with seemingly endless promise. Where the gospel celebrates sacrifice, the world celebrates ambition. The kind of ambition that tells you to do whatever it takes to get to the top. Where the gospel centers around community, the world says each man is in it for himself. It’s this pursuit of individuality that causes us to stumble. Where Christ is wrapping people in his loving arms, we’re pushing them away with one hand and showing them the door. In order to grow closer to the God that loves us so dearly, we must cultivate lives and habits that are driven by a deeper desire to know him. In order to get to know him and spread his word, we must get to know those around us. Christians, pagans, children, adults, people we love, people we hate… they are all created in his image and deserve an opportunity to witness Jesus’s love for them in real time.
Back in high school, I spent countless hours at one of my very best friend’s houses. Despite her being a new student, it took us virtually no time to become fast friends. Her mom’s arms seemed to always be open for a warm embrace and I smiled at the sound of dad’s southern drawl as he told stories inevitably ended with raucous laughter. I relished the times spent at their kitchen counter, balanced on a wooden stool, laughing and talking. I knew where to find the chips and dip, I knew that there would always be a jug of sweet tea in the fridge, and most of all, I knew I was always welcome. And it wasn’t only me that felt the magnetic attraction that the family had. Their reputation quickly became one of inclusiveness. It didn’t matter where you were from or what your story was, you always had a place waiting for you in that little blue clapboard house. It seemed to me, and countless others, that they never tired of welcoming people into the fold of Christ’s love.
Hospitality, as it’s called in our language, is always an easier idea in our heads than it is in our hearts. We have a grand notion that being hospitable means putting on a good face and circulating an artfully arranged platter of hours d’oeuvres. Our culture places such an emphasis on perfection that hospitality is a nearly impossible, and easily avoidable task. We’ve made it too simple to use our imperfection as an excuse to close our doors and live out our lives in quiet solitude. What we are forgetting is that our perfect God died a vicious death so that he could exist amidst our everyday messes. In fact, God wants us to invite people our less-than-perfect, disorganized, sloppy lives so we can show people how he uses imperfect beings like us to make his kingdom beautiful. So instead of worrying about what shoes we’re going to wear or what food we’re going to serve, let’s simply offer an invitation and trust that God will orchestrate the rest.