I think Christians need to remember this important truth: we do not have to agree with others to love them and treat them with gracious hospitality and kindness. When you forget or doubt that, read the gospels and look at Jesus. If the example of Jesus teaches us anything about our responsibility to the world it is that we must lean toward reconciliation, treating others the way we would like to be treated. To do anything less is not gospel–good news–to a world in desperate need for some.
Society will not be persuaded by words or argumentation, but by self-giving love and gracious hospitality. Things change when we move in close to others in kindness and friendship, not away in disgust or disagreement. We need to learn how to live in that tension, to obey Jesus and trust Him with the consequences.
So where do we begin. I have two suggestions.
I don’t meant the person closest to you on an emotional level. I’m talking about the one literally closest to you–the one in close proximity to your everyday rhythms of life. Your next door neighbor. Your co-worker. Your Beautician. The person serving your food at your favorite restaurant. Or the person you avoid every Sunday at a church gathering. Introduce (or reintroduce) yourself. Ask them to share a part of their story (Where are you from? What brings you here? What compelled you to work here?). If they ask, share yours. And before you think this is too intrusive or that they want this, I would suggest that most people want to be known, though usually on their own terms. Do not nurture the fragmented culture that forces people to the margins of quiet desperation. Take a risk and move in by choosing presence. Listen. Learn who they are. Then as God’s Spirit works in you, you just might begin to love them in a way that reflects the love God has for them. Who knows, you develop a surprising friendship. You might even discover ways you can be more deeply present with them as God leads and forms the both of you in His own redemptive way. One thing is for certain, you will never know until you begin.
2. Ask yourself these two questions (and do so often):
Who might God be calling me to love?
Who might God be calling to love me?
Invite others into discerning these questions with you. In our missional community gatherings, we ask these two questions almost weekly. We share what we’re thinking and the challenges keeping us from moving in. This helps us live more present with others. We slowly awaken to what God may be up to in their lives and ours. We are reoriented to move in closer by embracing them and making room in our lives for their presence. We start with small steps. But we at least start. For us it is what it means to follow Christ and to love with a self-giving love. We choose to posture our lives in gracious hospitality and live as gracious hosts.
Choose what works for you and your personality, but do something.
Either way, no matter what we do or how we go about it, the Incarnation reminds us that our words must become flesh where, as witnesses of God’s kingdom, we make our dwelling among others. As God is present with us we must learn to become present with others. When we do, we’re able to join God in what He is doing in our lives and theirs.
And remember, we don’t go at it alone. Do it in along side others committed to doing the same.
I hope you will.