Wednesday, January 31, 2018

We Pursue the Stranger- By Eileen Knowles

I've been thinking quite a bit about a message we heard at church a few weeks ago. Matt talked about intentions vs behavior.  If we truly want to change something in our life then "belief is not enough, good intentions are not enough and inspiration is not enough".  Lasting change is only achievable when there is a shift in our desires and our habits.

I loved this quote from the message:

"Habits are like prophesies; they predict the path our life will take."

I love the simple yet profound reminders of how change takes place in our life...

I don't know how to pray...Well how do you learn to pray?  By doing more of it.

I don't know how to read the Bible...Well how do you learn to read the Bible?  By opening it up and reading it.  

I want to get in better shape...Well how do you do that?  By making choices that put us on the path that will lead us to that desired outcome.  

Last week, I began thinking of ways we might apply this lesson to improve our host teams at church and realized that creating Sunday morning environments that are more hospitable works the exact same way.

How do we become more hospitable?  By doing more of it, by making choices that put us on the path that will lead us to that desired outcome. 

I then read a few different passages on hospitality and this one in particular stood out to me.

"Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality." Romans 12:13, HCSB

It was the phrase pursue hospitality that caught my attention.

Some translations use the word practice instead.  I personally prefer "pursue."  There just seems to be a more immediate urgency and importance packed into that word. "Practice" doesn't hit my heart with the same level of intensity.  The word pursue makes me think of chasing or running after something or someone.  It makes me think of how the Lord relentlessly and lovingly pursues me. I think of courtships and how we go out of our way to be with the one our heart is falling in love with.  I think of the way scripture commands us to "seek the Lord with all our hearts."

As I studied this verse a little bit more, I was reminded of something I think I may have once heard before but had forgotten.  The Greek word for hospitality doesn't translate the way we may think it does. I know that my first thought of what hospitality means is having my neighbors over for dinner OR  I think about my own neighbor who loves to cook and, sometimes, out of the blue, will bring food over for us to try. (Yes, we scored BIG in the good neighbor department!)  And, yet, that's not the translation of the word hospitality in scripture.

Here's what I discovered: "The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος. The word is a combination of two concepts, that break down as follows: φιλό (pronounced Philao) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. Being a more precise language than English, classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love”. In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother”, and is how we get the name Philadelphia- the City of Brotherly Love.

The word ξενος (Xenos) which makes up the second half of the word we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant”, and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants." - Benjamin Corey

So the most accurate translation is that we "pursue the love of strangers or immigrants."

This reminder has truly fired me up as we look at taking our hospitality up a notch on a Sunday morning.

Where do we begin?  We pursue the stranger, the outsiders, and the immigrants in our midst.

One of our core values at church is that "we break the huddle"  and this idea, of loving the stranger, reaffirms this value in my heart.  We look for the one family or the one person we have never met before or, maybe, we have seen them walk through the doors of Rock Bridge a hundred times, but have never taken any intentional steps to get to know them beyond a friendly smile or handshake.

How do we increase our hospitality?  We scan the venues, the sidewalks and lobby spaces... and we relentlessly pursue and love the strangers in our midsts.

Can you imagine the shift in our environments on a Sunday morning if every single person who considers Rock Bridge home intentionally pursued this habit and it became the driving desire on everyone's heart?


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