Evangelism: “Radical Hospitality”
Isaiah 58: 6-9b; Matthew 25: 31-46
Pearl: Expanding the table to carry out the gospel mandate.
Function: To motivate listeners to open their eyes, hearts, and church to those often passed by, ignored, and avoided as an outworking of our core mission of “sharing Christ’s love.”
Is your vision for people expanding or contracting?
- Do you see people for who they are on the outside or do you see deeper than what is on the surface?
- The love of Jesus Christ compels us to see deeper.
- The love of Jesus Christ compels us to look beyond appearance, religion, lack of religion, political affiliation, race, class, ethnicity, economic standing, sexual orientation, education or lack of education, and so on.
- The love of Jesus Christ compels us to see only people. To see only people with mothers and fathers who love them.
- The love of Jesus Christ compels us to see people as people just like ourselves deep down inside.
- As with an onion the love of Jesus Christ compels us to almost peel away the layers which people often have to get to the part where we are all much the same.
- In order to do this it is necessary to continually expand your vision for people.
- The nature of our calling in Jesus Christ is to an ever-expanding table. This metaphor of the “table” is not new to the Christian church. The Table is one of the church’s most powerful objects. The Table is up front and central to most worship spaces. There is a reason for this whether we know it or not. Whether we embrace it or not the Table is front and center in the church to continually remind us of the need to eternally expand those who are guests at the Table of the Lord.
So as followers of Jesus Christ your ongoing calling is to move and extend the boundaries of your love daily.
Let’s face it evangelism is uncomfortable work. It is messy when it is authentic. You cannot remain content with the people who are around your table. This would mean that you have closed your table down. Your table should always be open and you should always want to include new guests.
- When I talk about welcoming to your table I mean that you take your table with you wherever you go. So your calling of sharing the love of Christ means to continually seek to include anyone and everyone in your life. That is to welcome them and to seek after them in relationship to get to that deeper level where you will find that you are the same.
- This is evangelism. Evangelism is a force which compels you to connect with the other. This is the way of the love of God in Jesus Christ.
- This is why the choir sang the piece “Ain’t Judgin No Man.”
- If you do any “judging,” judge that you are the same as everyone else at most levels. Think of the onion if it helps. Peel away some layers and see that you are the same.
- The Christ in us draws us to others both similar and different from us for the very reason that Christ is in them, too.
- We get that very idea from Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these who are members of my family, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
- So from that simple statement in a story that Jesus told, the church surmises that our Lord wants us not so much to see what a person presents to us in their outer layers, but to go further to see their deeper layers, and then to also see our Lord Jesus in them because of the solid fact that Jesus loves them and gave his life for them.
- If you really take that seriously it changes how you look at others and it changes how you interact with others.
- The gospel seed compels you to constantly expand the limits of your love and acceptance. This is an important lesson for the church.
- John Pavlovitz, a new favorite writer, wrote in A Bigger Table, “The place where God is will always be radically inclusive. It will always outgrow the container, always break beyond the borders we create or imagine or intend. The bigger table will always be leading us beyond where we believe the edge of our compassion and connection should be, and often this will be outside the rigid faith of our childhood…Thank God that God is always going to be better at inclusion than we are; always more compassionate, more loving, more forgiving. We can’t out-love God. Our selfishness prevents it. We’ll always default to protection, to exclusion, to comfort, and these things will be barriers that we will always need to be aware of and push hard against” (pp. 155-56).
- In the church we too often quickly and easily put up the fence. We draw a line of separation.
- In my previous life in another community we held an annual Baccalaureate Service for our local High School. Our Ministerium planned the service in cooperation with students. We also gave scholarships, usually $500 to a few graduating seniors. The funds were collected by the local area churches. Applications were distributed to every graduating senior.
- A few members of the Ministerium would read the applications and select the awardees. We favored students who were going into ministry or into some human service field. Rarely did we have ministry candidates but mostly they represented the fields of nursing, social work, and medicine. We made no stipulation on who may apply. It was obvious, however, that the applications were being reviewed by the local Christian churches and para-church organizations of the community.
- For many years I was leader of the planners and among those who reviewed the applications. The final year I took part we selected one winner who was Mormon (and that is why I was relieved of being leader). She had a stellar application. She shared her story of how sincerely she practiced her faith. She put most of us to shame in how devotedly she practiced her faith.
- In the Baccalaureate service we asked her to give a testmony. She surprised some of us in calling attention to the fact that she was Mormon but did it in a way that was not offensive and not proselytizing. She simply, and innocently shared her surprise and delight that she, a Mormon, was selected as a winner. One of my colleagues who helped make the decision earlier to award her said upon making our decision, “We should expect some push-back for this decision.”
- He was right. It came from another minister who regularly participated in our Ministerium. He sent some emails asking how the decision was made…who was in on the decision…and if he could have a meeting with those of us who selected her. We had the meeting. We discussed our process. He expressed his concerns. The final result of the discussion, if I remember correctly, was that in the future, any questionable awardees such as this one of a different faith should be brought to the larger group for a final decision rather than leaving it up to only a few from within the group.
- What that really meant was that in the future such a candidate would likely be rejected. Such a candidate would likely be rejected because of the typical church habit of fencing the table and limiting the table to those who better fit a certain profile.
- And so once again, as is so typical, the church failed to move its limits further out. Once again, the church saw in its usual binary way of “ins” and “outs,” “us” vs. “them.”
- The church cannot err in granting acceptance and love. This is because, as Pavlovitz wrote, God is always way out beyond his people. We cannot go beyond Christ’s gracious acceptance because he is already out there. If we think we are going too far to include and accept others, we are never as far out as God!
As a means to sharing Christ’s love you need to move further out and extend further out the boundaries of your love daily.
Sharing Christ’s love means seeing past what is presented on the outside to the human being deep down inside and the Christ who wants his followers to see him in everyone.
- That means going to anyone. The gospel seed in us, the Holy Spirit in us, compels us to go to anyone and everyone. It compels us to welcome them to our Table. The Head of our Table is already there with them anyway. We should be with them as well.
- This is precisely what Jesus did through his ministry and this is precisely what infuriated the religious people. He was continually criticized for the company he kept.
- We also know from this story Jesus told that he wants us to see him especially in the most vulnerable and outcast of society.
- Seeing him in them means that we then go to them with love, concern, compassion, and care.
- Highland does this in many ways through ministries such as Threads of Hope, Mason-Dixon Community Services, Hope for the Homeless, Porcupine Mission, The Center, occasional financial assistance to those who ask for it, to handy-man help, and so on. There are many ways in which Highland is caring for the “least of these.”
- But the call pertains to us individually as well. The calling to go out beyond our comfort zones is the gospel call. It is the call to daily extend the limits of our compassion by engaging the other because the other is deep down inside just like us.
- Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You can do that a lot easier once you have peeled back a few layers.
- Seeing him in them means that we then go to them with love, concern, compassion, and care.
Without even realizing it when you continually extend the boundaries of your love and push out the limits of your love daily you are sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
You cannot go wrong in extending love and acceptance.
Boldly err on the side of grace and acceptance and you will never go wrong!