We are about 5 weeks into our series “Truth & Love: Communicating Gospel Truth in Speech & Action.” We know there is a lot of great stuff to read and not enough time. When we’ve done these longer series, we have found it helpful to jump in at various points and create a post that notes a few highlights and facilitates discussion. Several churches have told us that they use these for reading and discussion among an outreach committee or hospitality committee, even a couple sessions or diaconates. So, this week is our first installment of that summary thus far.
From John Shaw in the introduction to the series:
(On patience in building relationships) “This is one of the ways that Christians can stand out. How many people in the world are willing to invest years and years in their neighbor simply because they believe that their neighbor is valuable? People notice it. It’s different.”
Question: Who are the people in your life that you are in for the long haul to build a relationship because they are valuable? Is there anyone you need to rekindle a relationship with in this category?
Also, John Shaw:
(On James and the tongue and social media) “A little spark can set a whole forest on fire. That’s sometimes what we are doing on social media when we attack a person or an idea without respecting the person or the idea in the way that is deserved. And in so doing we set fire to relationships. And I bet some of you have examples of that, that you’ve seen or even experienced where relationships were completely destroyed because somebody typed something.
If you would like to hear a discussion on the use of social media you can go here: “John Shaw Podcast” and go to the 15:25 mark up to the 31:48 mark. Or find episode #13 of the Outward OPC podcast and listen to that time segment.
Question: What is an example of a social media post or conversation that prior to listening to this discussion you would have thought was fine, but now you are rethinking whether it’s appropriate on social media with 100s of people watching?
From Al Tricarico on hospitality:
Hospitality is a great equalizer. After all, everyone eats! We have different homes, different tastes, different capacities where we live. But we do not have different obligations. To be hospitable is to follow the example and command of Christ.
While not every person finds himself in a situation conducive to welcoming people at home, we all need to think about how we can follow the welcome-commands of Scripture. It may mean treating a friend to lunch out. Or visiting someone in the hospital or in prison with a welcoming spirit. (Matthew 25:39) It may mean being a gracious, affirming guest. Give others the joy of welcoming you while you enjoy the company of hosts and other guests. In the broadest sense, live in a way that makes others feel “at home” with you.
Question: Are there any “atypical” ways that you could practice this kind of hospitality that you haven’t thought about but Al’s comments bring to mind?
Also from Al:
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?
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.
Question: What are 2 ways that come to mind to implement this kind of hospitality?
From Jeremiah Montgomery on loving your neighbor:
Several years ago, my friend Eric Hausler said some things in this regard that poked a hole in my heart, and changed forever how I think about connecting with people. Let me share those with you.
Eric laid his finger on what I know was the real problem for me – and which I suspect is the real problem for others as well: we need to learn to see people not as landscape or as machines, but as souls. As Christians, we believe that every living person has an everlasting soul. But do we live like this is true? Do we see people this way? When we go about our daily lives, do we remember that each person we encounter is on a trajectory that will extend into eternity? C.S. Lewis said it best: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
The truth is, we usually don’t see people as we ought to see them. Most of the people we encounter throughout our days simply fade into the background of our routine – we threat them as landscape. If we must interact with them, such as the clerk at Kroger or the Amazon return desk in Kohl’s, then we regard them as little better than machines: we give them our items to be scanned, we pay as needed, and they hand us a receipt. Conversation is minimal; eye contact optional.
We rationalize all this behavior because we’re “in a hurry” or we “need to get home to the family.” Well, there’s no doubt that family is important, and it’s true that many of us make ourselves very busy. But is that the real reason we treat people like landscape or machines? Be honest: even on your most relaxed days, do you take the time to notice, acknowledge, and converse with the people you meet in a meaningful way? For most of us, the answer is no. The reason for our behavior, then, is not that we are too busy.
Question/Idea: Take a week (or a day) and notice and write down how many people in your life you encounter but end up viewing as landscape or machines. Think about ways to treat them as souls and try it with 1 of the people.
If you want to read/listen further in this series, all posts can be found here: “Truth & Love Series.”