08.28.11 What is Radical Hospitality Luke 14:7-24
A prominent religious leader invites Jesus to a dinner party, perhaps hoping Jesus would repay him. And Jesus did, but with something completely unexpected.
- Jesus’ teaching on how to thrown a dinner party
- When the resurrection of the righteous and theKingdomofGodbegin
- A definition of radical hospitality
- The five key passages from the Bible on hospitality
- Why practice hospitality, from least to most mature
- How hospitality serves the proclamation of the Gospel and the transformation of peoples lives
There are two reasons a Pharisee would invite Jesus to dinner, implicit in Luke 14. One reason was to trap Jesus into doing something incriminating, like healing someone on the Sabbath—which Jesus did (Luke 14:1-6). The other was to gain something from Jesus—a blessing, notoriety, a share in theKingdom ofGod?
But it’s often the case that when we have ulterior motives with Christ, we are the ones surprised. And so it was with the Pharisee, for Jesus says to him, “The NEXT time you throw a party, invite only those who cannot repay you; invite the poor, the lame, the blind, and the crippled.”
This gives us insight in to the heart of God. God doesn’t invite us to his banquet in order to judge us, to reveal our sinfulness, or to trap us breaking the rules. And he doesn’t invite us because he wants something from us. God invites us for the simple reason that God wants a full house. Empty seats annoy God.
Jesus tells the parable about a great banquet to which the invited guests demur in coming with very reasonable excuses. In the mean time, the lame, blind, crippled, and poor are substituted in for the absent invited guests. The banquet hall is still not full, so the host sends servants out to compel anyone from the farthest reaches of society to enter and partake of the feast.
So should his followers be, says Jesus, in throwing dinner parties. They are to invite those who cannot repay them, for the hosts will be repaid in the “resurrection of the righteous.” Hearing this, one of the other guests present in the Pharisee’s home declares how blessed will be those who partake of the meal in theKingdomofGod.
The guest heard “resurrection of the righteous” and assumed a future reality, but Jesus isn’t talking about life after death. He’s more interested in what we do now. Remember that Luke is written for believers following Jesus’ own resurrection. The resurrection of the righteous has begun; theKingdomofGodis now. Now is the time to respond to God’s invitation, and now is the time to invite the marginalized.
This is radical hospitality, the first practice of fruitful Christianity identified by Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase. Combining comments from his books on this topic, we might define radical hospitality as, “inviting others into God’s presence while going above and beyond expectations in order welcome, receive, include, and support others, especially those not yet here.” Making room for the neglected, intentionally inviting the marginalized into our fellowship—that is more than just being friendly. It’s being radically hospitable.
There are five major biblical statements on this kind of hospitality, and why it’s important to practice it as Christians and as the church.
- Deuteronomy 10:19, where God implores the ancient Israelites to show hospitality to the widows, orphans, and aliens in the land, for they were aliens inEgypt.
- Matthew 18:5, where Jesus says whoever welcomes a child, welcomes him.
- Hebrews 13:2, where we are reminded that those to whom we show hospitality may well be God’s messengers to us in disguise.
- Romans 15:7, where Paul concludes his most instructive letter with a plea that the Christians welcome one another as Christ welcomed each of them.
- Matthew 25:35, where Jesus commends the faithful who, when they welcomed a stranger, unwittingly welcomed him.
From these passages we discover three reasons to show hospitality, three motivations that exist on a continuum of increasing maturity. At first there is gratitude: we show hospitality because God showed hospitality to us. Next there is obedience to God’s commands: we show hospitality because God wants us to. Finally there is love for others: we show hospitality because, like God, we love others. Whatever our motivation, the Bible doesn’t give us a choice. We must show hospitality. And if we are faithful to the God revealed in Christ, we must show radical hospitality.
This is hard for us in the church. Not only is it hard to show hospitality to other Christians—why else would Paul conclude Romans with such a plea? But in the church it’s doubly hard to welcome the stranger. We say we welcome young people, just as long as they act like old people. We welcome children, so long as they act like adults. We welcome newcomers, as long as they act like us oldtimers. It’s hard to practice radical hospitality.
Why does God want us to practice radical hospitality? Because God knows that people don’t respond well to being told what they need. People come to the church with all kinds of needs, many of them unconscious. People need to know that God loves them, that their life is valuable, that they are not alone. People need a sense of peace, of hope, a sense of belonging. They are looking for purpose or an opportunity to serve. They need to know they are loved, needed, and accepted. They need to learn how to reconcile with others, themselves, and with God.
But people don’t like to be told what they need. The most effective way to reveal to others that these needs are met by God is not to tell them this, but to give them the experience of having those needs met by God. Radical hospitality is the intentional removal of anything that would hinder that experience. In other words, radical hospitality is foundational to the proclamation of the Gospel.
Thoughts for Further Reflection or Discussion
- Someone showed you radical hospitality, and it resulted in your faith awakening or growing. Who did that for you?
- To whom in your life can you show radical hospitality?
- What is the most hospitable experience you’ve had with a church? What was the most inhospitable?
- If radical hospitality is removing the blocks to people experiencing God meeting their needs, think about your church—its building and grounds, its worship space, its programs, everything about it. How can your church do a better job of removing barriers to the proclamation of the Gospel through radical hospitality?