I am reading a memoir of Eugene Peterson called “The Pastor,” and I love it. In a chapter titled Eucharistic Hospitality, he describes his desire and struggles to be hospitable in an inhospitable world. He asks this rhetorical question with the answer being YES. But the thing is, he is asking this question in the 1960s, and honestly, it is still a question that we are asking ourselves today.
Here is the question: “Is it possible to live in this increasingly inhospitable world in a hospitable way? Is it possible to do something focused and intentional about what is wrong in our society without turning the wrongdoers into the enemy?”
While we know we’ll face this outside of the church, we can see it inside the church too. We may meet students who may be hostile to the message of Jesus. We may face parents who are hostile to how we want to teach. We may face volunteers who disagree with our leadership or church members who think youth ministry is a waste of time.
Can we be hospitable to them?
The answer is yes. It is possible. But the question Peterson is asking isn’t the question he is asking on paper. The real question he is asking is “HOW?” How do we do something focused and intentional about what is wrong in our society without turning the wrongdoers into the enemy?
What follows is my attempt to answer the question. I’m not so naïve to believe that this will be a cut a dry, cookie-cutter, “follow these steps to get it right” type answer. People are far more complex than that. Real-life is often much messier than this. You could do everything right, and people will still reject you. You could do everything wrong, and God will still use you. I’ve just found these to be helpful in my journey of pointing people to Jesus.
First, we need to stop thinking of the wrongdoers as our enemy. This isn’t the first Shrek movie. We need to put down our pitchforks. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. And those wrongdoers, however misguided or deceived, are image-bearers of God, worthy of honor.
Next, we invite them into our lives with no agenda. We need to get to know them. Eat dinner with them. Allow them to see Jesus in our day-to-day lives.
My wife has been mentoring a young lady for several years now, and when they first began spending time with each other, she told her that she didn’t believe the love that my wife and I shared was real. This young lady felt that eventually, she would see the real us. Five years later, I think she may believe us now. There is something about inviting someone into your world and living out the love of Jesus with no agenda and no strings attached that draw people in.
After you have earned the right to speak into this person’s life and when the time is right, do so as Jesus did to the woman caught in adultery. With a perfect balance of GRACE and TRUTH, inspired by LOVE and led by the HOLY SPIRIT, walk with people, and point them to Jesus. Remind them that His ways are perfect and good and right.
Lastly, with no agenda, continue walking with the person, whether a student, a parent, or a volunteer. While maintaining healthy boundaries, please don’t give up on them.
In a world that is falling more and more away from Jesus, I believe that now more than ever is the time where we need to live out Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13-16.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
David Wood is a wizard.
Before I lived in Modesto, my wife, my three daughters, and I lived in Belize as missionaries. Before that, we lived in Southern California where I had an awesome opportunity to travel the U.S. performing at colleges and churches sharing the gospel through my illusions for about 3 years. I’ve experienced a whole lot in my life, and I love to share God’s story through my life as often as I can.