Despite communicative technology that brings people together with immediacy and clarity, many scholars speculate that people living in our society today are some of the loneliest ever. While communication is easy, the medium does not promote intimacy. Thus, many people in our society do not understand real intimacy and thus struggle to understand real community.
The church has long existed as a place to promote real community. Jesus called a group of twelve and he sent them out two by two. Paul, Silas, and Barnabas found communities of faith, not just individuals, and then Paul writes to them largely concerning how they can live healthily together. The church should be a place where people learn intimacy, a place where shared living happens.
People are craving intimacy and community. At the same time people are scared by both of these because they require putting oneself out there. Remember the risk and vulnerability it takes to go as a visitor to a church? I have been to far too many churches where I am greeted with clichés and sound bytes rather than genuine care. After all, we are followers of Jesus who has made it known how deeply he cares about each one of us. Jesus became our constant companion and our guard against loneliness. We should follow suite and offer such compassionate hospitality to a guest.
We are going to get some practice with such genuine hospitality with our new BVSer, David Rauwolf. David is thousands of miles away from his home in Germany. He has given a year to be in service to us; what an awesome gift! But can we meet him with genuine hospitality, the kind of hospitality that leads to shared living? There’s a real challenge to all of you.
I once heard a Brethren minister from Virginia talk about the cultural shift around hospitality when he moved to the “North.” Hospitality does not always come natural to those of us in this area. Yet, when our culture is craving intimacy and community, as Christians we need to step up to the plate. In a celebrated hospitality text from Genesis 18, Abraham doesn’t wait for these three strange men to come to the gate. No, he runs to them and bows to their feet. Can we create such an environment in our church? Are we willing to humble ourselves before a stranger? Would we even do this for the person we share a pew or table with? Are we willing to run beyond our church doors to connect with another person? At our many functions and activities this month, take a shot at hospitality which extends your comfort zone. Connect with somebody in a real, Christ-like way.