Greetings of Love,
Over the past 10 days or so I have had a number of encounters which were both convicting and encouraging. You are familiar with the process—while you are active but clueless God shows you how your thoughts and actions fall short of what Jesus calls us to, while also bringing a realization that He has brought you a long way toward Christ-likeness (considering where you once were on this issue). As God assures us through Paul, He began the good work in you will continue His work . . .. Praise God! My thoughts can be connected by the words tolerance, love and hospitality.
Tolerance. Just the word seems politically charged, but I’m not talking politics (yet I hope you’re registered and will vote). No. I’m using tolerance in a more traditional sense, as in I really enjoy steak but I can barely tolerate brussel sprouts (if they’re your favorite, don’t be offended–I’m using them merely as an example). We might use tolerate that way in connection with any number of things—a particular course, household chore, or even a person! Part of God’s renewed conviction of me is that at times there are still some people I merely tolerate; the encouragement is that the number is considerably smaller than it once was.
Love. As seen in Jesus as He showed us Abba—genuine and deep concern for the wellbeing of others, to the point of acting for their best. This is pretty tough to do if you are only tolerant of them.
Hospitality. In modern English usage many people equate hospitality with entertaining, but they are not the same. Indeed, in Biblical usage (and in mine) it means love of strangers. Paula is gifted by God in this way—she has the gift of loving strangers, making them feel at ease, enjoying them. God continues growing me in this quality as well. He is not done with me yet, but I am increasingly interested in people who I haven’t yet met, befriending them and sharing with them.
So . . ., how do these ideas connect with your conduct toward others? Most of us can talk it up, but to actually conduct ourselves in ways which are not merely tolerant but involve actively loving strangers in tangible ways, well . . . not so much! Many of us, confronted with this discrepancy between word and deed begin to try to help the poor or disadvantaged. I don’t want to discourage you in that, but today I want to redirect the challenge a bit: How’s your conduct toward those who call themselves Christian but don’t adhere to your particular “flavor” of The Faith? Perhaps they are far more “literal” in their approach to Scripture than you are, or not; perhaps their view on “welcoming & affirming” is far too “liberal” for your taste, or not. Can you look to Jesus and move from a “brussel spout” face into love and hospitality?
I’m not claiming that God is through with me on this, but I know the work of Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection along with the work of the Spirit in our lives, accomplished a far greater work than most of us live into in our actions toward others in His body. Those who strongly proclaim “tolerance” are often downright hostile toward the more “conservative” parts of the Family, who (or their part) question the lineage of all who don’t adhere to their particular “exegesis” of the Word. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you abandon your passion or belief! What I am suggesting is that each of us allow the love of Christ and His enabling/empowering Spirit to move us into loving-hospitable actions toward one another. Really!
I am reminded of the time, while The Son pitched His tent among us, that He was approached by a couple of His most fervent followers. They had encountered some yahoo who dared to claim the name of Jesus in casting out demons but had never come to a single gathering of the faithful! “Because he wasn’t one of us we demanded that he stop!” Jesus spoke some key instruction, which may be more applicable than we typically admit: “Don’t forbid them! . . . Anyone who is not against us is for us.” Really? How can they be for us? Read it for yourself (Mark 9:38-40), but don’t stop with the reading. Ask the Spirit to open to you His application of these words in your life, including your extension of love and hospitality to parts of Christ’s Body you can barely tolerate. Then, do what He says. Well, always do what He says.
By this will all men know that you are My disciples, in that you show love to one another.