Grace & Practicing Hospitality

My mother often tells me that it is a good thing that my middle name is “grace” because I need the constant daily reminder to be full of it — and she is right. I am often not a grace-filled person. I err on the side of black and white, right and wrong, with little room in between for errors.

I like the idea of grace. Goodness knows I need it, and yet it is the sort of thing that I always keep at an arm’s distance away. I do not know how to interact with it or give it out.

We’ve all heard the saying “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” It is a phrase I have tossed around easily when I defend my stances on different issues or am trying to prove that I truly love all people.

And yet, I was recently confronted with the reality that I do not know what it truly means to love someone in spite of their sin and brokenness. I realized that I so often identify a person by their wrongdoings and not their identity in Christ — in His image (Genesis 1:27).  Imago Dei.

In my struggle between black and white, love and hate, and grace and truth I have ignored the humanity, the image of Christ in the people in front of me. I began to ask myself the question, 

“Do I really love the people around me? If so, where is the evidence?”

In her book “The Gospel Comes with a House key,” Rosaria Butterfield writes about radically ordinary hospitality and how meeting people’s physical and emotional needs first can open the door for you to share Jesus. As I have read her book over the last few weeks, I really resonated with this idea of hospitality and caring for others. As a leader on my hall, I get to practice it regularly and quite frankly, it has been simple for me, as loving on 35+ girls this semester has been something I am eager to do.

And then I went home for Thanksgiving break and realized how much I had missed about Rosaria’s writing. Loving people can be easy. Loving difficult people is not. Loving people who I disagree with is not easy. Loving people who annoy me is not easy. Loving people when all I want to do is rest (probably selfishly I might add) is definitely not easy. Hospitality under these circumstances feels impossible.

But what if we as Believers learned to look past the difficult, the disagreements, the annoyances and saw others the way that Jesus sees them — broken and in need grace from a perfect Savior.

A change in our mindset would look like seeing a difficult person and asking first how can I serve them and meet them in their brokenness instead of first saying “ugh why do I have to deal with them?”

It is living full of grace.

It looks like identifying and sympathizing with another person’s pain to build relationships and show them Jesus. It looks like sacrificing rest to meet urgent needs. It means mourning with those who mourn because we understand the pain of grief. It looks like acknowledging a person’s desire to be loved, even if we do not agree with where they are going to find it so that we can show them the only person who can fill that desire — Jesus.

In Luke 24:13-25 we find the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus who were discussing the death of Jesus when Jesus himself approached him. They were unable to recognize Jesus and he asked them what they were talking about. We see at the end of verse seventeen that they are sad and in disbelief that this man (Jesus) is unaware of the tragic events that have just taken place. Jesus walks with these men all the way to Emmaus explaining the Scriptures to them and meeting them in their pain. He breaks bread with them and continues to stay with them even though it was not his plan — hospitality. 

He does not need to do this, but in his humility, Jesus consistently puts others first. He is our perfect example of radically ordinary hospitality.

Rosaria writes, “This passage in Luke spills over with grace and care. Jesus models here what the future of our daily, ordinary, radical hospitality is all about. First, Jesus does not come with an apologetics lesson. He comes with a question. And then he listens compassionately as the two share pain, disappointment, abandonment, betrayal…So he accompanies them in their suffering. And we need to do the same. When people are willing to stop and tell us where they hurt, we need to praise God for it, and we need to stop what we are doing, shut our mouths, and listen with care.”

Living full of grace and practicing radically ordinary hospitality does not need to be hard or expensive. It does, however, require the sacrifice of time, money and resources. Jesus’ time on earth was a perfect example of how to practice hospitality, and we need to do likewise.

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