Last week Al Tricarico discussed the importance and call of hospitality as a display of God’s welcome to us (Link: Part 1). This week Al continues with some practical thoughts about how to build a pattern of hospitality….Here’s Al:
Know your neighbors
Love of neighbor needs to be qualified. At least that is what the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan believed, which is why he asked Jesus the clarifying question, “Who is my neighbor?” The man knew that the teaching of the day was an expanded (and corrupted) version of Leviticus 19:18. Jesus knew it too. That is why he said this in his Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44]
Be like the Samaritan in the story. Be a good neighbor. Show mercy to needy people. Do not discriminate and withhold love because, by some twisted understanding of God’s law, you think that people exist who do not qualify as neighbors. That was the message of Jesus to the lawyer.
Right now, in the broadest sense, the neighbor count is 7.7 billion and rising. Our neighborhood is the whole world in a way. No earthly resident is disqualified. But only a small number of our global neighbors are within our mercy-reach. Jesus is not calling us to show particular acts of mercy to every person in the world. He wants us to show mercy to needy people we see.
While we are not to exclude anyone, we do have to restrict our neighboring in geographic terms. A good place to start is the street where we live. We all have neighbors. Our neighbors have needs. Do you know your neighbors’ needs? Do you know their names? Do they know you? Have you considered how you might get to know them better and contribute positively to their lives?
Be a good neighbor
Christians live in neighborhoods. Congregations worship in neighborhoods. Emerging mission works are located in places where people live. Even when a church building is not surrounded by homes, its ministry has reach to people who live nearby. It is so important that we see this and love our neighbors well.
The victim in the parable was in bad shape, as are many in our communities. They may be lonely, underemployed, or troubled by a decision that needs to be made. Some have medical conditions, or addictions, or disabilities that make life very hard. Some neighbors flourish and seem to have everything put together right. They may be the neediest of all if they rely on themselves and see no need for God.
Consider that God has positioned his church and its members in places where opportunities to show mercy abound. And then ask how mercy can be delivered.
It is possible to feel overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world and the particular trials faced by our neighbors. God is not calling his people to address every issue and fix every problem. But he does want us to be involved with people. He wants us to love them. He wants us to see them as he sees them—broken, loved, needy, and invited to believe in his son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the ultimate mercy-giver. We who know his mercy recognize ourselves in the injured man on the side of the road—weak, and incapable of helping ourselves. We are in trouble, but not left for dead. Jesus came and lived and died and rose in order to save us from our sins and bring us to heaven. We wait for his appearing and a time when all things will be made new. He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. (Titus 3:5)
The ways to show mercy are many. It is good for us to think creatively about how to show the mercy we have been shown. The very best gift of mercy we can give to our neighbors is Jesus himself. We have Jesus. Our neighbors need Jesus. Let’s give him to them.