In my last writing on the blog, I wrote about creating space in our lives so that we can experience rest, recreation, and renewal in the presence of God. Specifically, I wrote about creating a rhythm of Sabbath in our lives (See On Keeping Sabbath September 2, 2016). Today’s writing focuses on making room for another human being in our lives. Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Of course, it is impossible to love our neighbor if we don’t make room for them.
The word that comes to mind when I think of making room in my life to love my neighbor is hospitality. Oftentimes, when thinking of hospitality, we think of opening up our homes and sharing food and drink with people we know, like, and who hold the same views of the world that we do. Hospitality does not begin with opening up our homes to our friends and acquaintances. Hospitality begins with opening up our hearts. When we open up our hearts, we discover that hospitality is lived out in the day-to-day as we become available to “the stranger, to people different from us, through the unwanted interruption, in the ordinary places of everyday living, where pain is experienced and presence is needed” (Marg Hardcastle Celtic Daily Prayer II September 2, Coleman Readings).
Rediscovering hospitality as a spiritual practice is vitally important in the “throw away” culture in which we live. You probably know what I mean by a throw away culture. If something has a defect or seems old to us we “throw it away.” If the couch has a small stain from a beverage spill, we throw it away. If a shoe has a small scuff on the end of it, we throw it away. Unfortunately, some people in our world are unofficially viewed and labeled as throw away people. Yet, God commands that we make room for them. In fact, that’s exactly how God came to world in Jesus. Joseph wanted to quietly discard Mary when she told him that she was pregnant with God’s son (see Matthew 1:19).
How do we practice hospitality? Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt provide solid spiritual direction for us:
[Hospitality] is not something you do, as much as it is someone you become. You try and fail. You try again. You make room for one person at a time, you give one chance at a time, and each of these choices of the heart stretches your ability to receive others. This is how to grow more hospitable—by welcoming one person when the opportunity is given to you. … Opening ourselves to the stranger is not equivalent to leaving our doors unlocked and bringing strangers into our homes. Hospitality does not mean we ignore obvious threats to personal safety. Hospitality means bringing strangers into our hearts, which may or may not result in bringing strangers to the table” (Radical Hospitality, Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications 2007).
Will you join me in trying to open our hearts to the stranger and to those who are different from us? Will you join me in opening our eyes for the possibilities of God in the unwanted interruption? Will you join me in stretching our hearts by making room for one person at a time?
-Dr. Steve Pulliam
Central’s Executive Pastor