When is a time you have experienced radical hospitality? What does radical hospitality look like? When I think of times that I’ve received radical hospitality, it’s been over-the-top, thoughtful, and gracious. I (Anne) do a fair bit of traveling for my job and there have been times I have gone to speak at another church and experienced radical hospitality. One was when they had a dinner party for me before the weekend I was set to speak. I was invited into one of the church member’s homes along with a small group of other leaders from the church and was fed the most delicious food and given the most thoughtful thank you gift for being with them. Another time was a very different expression of radical hospitality but equally memorable. As I entered the sanctuary with the pastor the morning before the start of the service, a lady named Teresa, who was homeless and had some special needs, came running up to me, embraced me and told me how glad she was to see me there. What a beautiful reception!
In both of those situations, the churches could have thanked me from afar. They could have given me a polite handshake at the end of my presentation or sent me home with a wrapped gift or thank you note to open in the car. That would have been nice, but it wouldn’t have been radical. Jesus calls us to radical hospitality- not a polite niceness from afar, but a receptive, radical embrace of people we aren’t quite sure of, don’t really know, and may not understand.
In Matthew 25, Jesus is talking to his disciples, and he is telling them of things to come – there will be a time that God separates those who follow him from those who don’t, he refers to them as sheep and goats. Then He has a message for the “sheep” on his right:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
The sheep, those who believed in Jesus and put their faith in Him, were rewarded for their radical hospitality and receptivity of those who were in need. Doing good deeds doesn’t get us into heaven, but the way we treat those in need and who are different than us is an expression of the richness of our relationship with the Father. If we can walk by someone in need without thinking twice about how Jesus might have responded to that individual, it tells us something about our understanding of our relationship with God.
Think for a moment- God didn’t walk by you when you were filthy in sin and refused to acknowledge His authority over your life. He doesn’t ignore you now when you have needs, when you are in crisis, or when you make decisions that don’t line up with His will. He is still there – constantly present and consistently receptive.
We are called to treat others with the same love and grace we have received from Him. Radical hospitality is close in proximity. It’s messy and can be a little awkward for the giver and the recipient – especially when we are out of practice. But radical hospitality and receptivity is what we’re called to give – because each time we do it’s a reflection of the radical way in which God has accepted us and received us into His family. It’s how we become more like Jesus for the sake of others.