Kingdom Hospitality in Relationships: Two Striking Examples
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”
For the past two days, I have focused on Luke 14:12-13. In this passage, Jesus encourages us to act counterculturally by opening our parties—and, implicitly, our hearts—to people who cannot repay us. Citizens of the kingdom of God will not be limited in their relationships by the status segmentation that is common in cultures, institutions, and most human relationships.
When I think of people who live by the values of the kingdom of God when it comes to how they treat others, I am reminded to two experiences I’ve had through my association with Laity Lodge.
The first experience involved Eugene Peterson, bestselling author, translator of The Message, and one of the most highly respected Christians I know. Eugene was at a private Laity Lodge retreat for writers, one that included some of the finest Christian authors and poets in the world today. I brought my son to one of the retreat meetings because he was eager to meet Eugene. Nathan also wanted Eugene to sign his Bible, which, as you might guess, was The Message. It’s not every day you get a translator of the Bible to sign his version for you! After the meeting, I introduced Nathan to Eugene, who was gracious, as always. I felt a bit awkward because I knew many people in the room wanted to speak with Eugene. But I figured it would only take a minute for him to sign my son’s Bible.
Eugene, however, didn’t see things as I did. He didn’t see Nathan as a low-status person stealing his time from more important people. He saw Nathan as a human being worthy of love and respect. So, in a room filled with “somebodies,” Eugene proceeded to talk with my “nobody” son for more than ten minutes. It was a stirring image of kingdom values in play.
My second experience of such values involved Howard E. Butt, Jr., the founder of Laity Lodge. It happened at a goodbye party for someone who had worked in our organization for fifty years. The party included many people who were “somebodies” in the Laity Lodge world, including several of Howard’s longtime friends. After the official festivities were concluded, I noticed that Howard began a conversation with a husband of someone newly hired on our staff. She was an invaluable contributor to our organization, but not very high up in our org chart. Yet that didn’t seem to matter to Howard. He entered into a deep conversation with this colleague’s husband, one that lasted a long time. During this dialogue, Howard was not scanning the room in the hope of finding someone more “important” to talk to. In those moments, there was no more important person than the one he was talking to right then. As I observed this scene, I found myself wanting to be like Howard, even as he was like Jesus.
The examples of Eugene and Howard both challenge and encourage me to see with the eyes of Jesus, to value people in the way of the kingdom of God. Perhaps they will help you to look at people differently today and to show hospitality to everyone you meet, regardless of their social position.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever witnessed something similar to what I described in this reflection? Have you ever been the recipient of this kind of hospitality from a person of higher status? If so, how did you feel? Are there people in your life to whom God is leading you so that you might share with them the hospitality of the kingdom of God?
PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for people who are living demonstrations of your kingdom values. Thank you, in particular, for Eugene and Howard, and for how their actions have challenged and encouraged me. Help me to be like them!
Give me your eyes today as I see the people in my life. Give me your heart to love them as you do. Give me your hands that I might be an instrument of your healing. Give me your ears, to hear, not just words, but the heart behind the words.
All praise be to you, gracious, hospitable, loving God. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: If you’d like a deeper understanding of the kingdom of God, let me refer you to my blog series: What Was the Message of Jesus?