Hospitality in Context

During the 4th century Gregory of Nazianzus, a Church leader from Cappadocia (in present-day Turkey), reflected on socially displaced neighbors all around him–people homeless in poverty and leprocy. His heart ached at their social exclusion. With the eyes of faith he saw them as his “kin,” as brothers and sisters in common humanity formed in the same divine image of his Maker. A conviction stirred within and he was moved to write one of his greatest works, On the Love for the Poor. Concerning this kinship he says,

“Why do we not help our own natural kin, while we have time? Why do we not take steps to protect them in the lowly state of their flesh, since we are flesh ourselves? Why do we feast in the face of our brothers’ and sisters’ misfortunes? Let it not be so with me let me not be rich while they are destitute, nor be in good health if I do not tend their wounds, nor have enough food or covering, nor rest under a roof, if I do not offer bread to them, and give them something to wear and a shelter to stay in, as far as I am able!”

You can see his solidarity with their suffering. It left him confused as to why other Christians would not join him in extending God’s hospitality to these needful neighbors, so much so he posed this stinging question:

“What do you make of all this, my friends, my brothers and sisters? Why do we suffer ourselves from this spiritual sickness–a sickness much more serious than that of the body? I am convinced, after all, that as much as the one is involuntary, the other comes from our choice…?”

As he brings his lengthy plea to an end, this pastor-theologian offers his readers a theological vision of hospitality outlined by Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25. Gregory writes:

“If you believe me at all then, servants and brothers and sisters and fellow heirs of Christ, let us take care of Christ while there is still time. Let us minister to Christ’s needs. Let us give Christ nourishment. Let us clothe Christ. Let us gather Christ in. Let us show Christ honor.”

For Gregory it was simple: as Christians welcome others—all others—Christians welcome Christ. As Christians refuse others—any others—Christians refuse Christ.

To welcome them or not welcome them is a willful choice that reveals where our true hope and allegiance rests.

“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 took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me. . . .Whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do to me.” ~ Jesus in Matthew 25:35-36, 40, 45.

About Fred

Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience. Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas. Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
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