Yesterday’s events in Roanoke, Virginia seem to be one more step in a serious of events leading our country toward all out race war. While we’d like to believe something like that would never happen here, it is difficult to when you look at the 100 or so ethnic conflicts taking place in our world right now (ethnic-conflict.com).
Dylan Roof, the mass murderer of the Charlottesville Nine and Vester Flannigan both stated their desire that their actions would bring about a race war. In a fax send to ABC News Flannigan wrote, "As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE (deleted)!!!" the document reportedly said.
So what are believers in Jesus Christ to do right now? Well, not go on with life as usual- that’s for sure! It’s time to be shaken out of our complacency and into some serious action. Personally, I am not sure if a race war can be prevented at this point in time. The steps we take now, may be a few decades too late. That does not mean that we should not try. At the very minimum, we need to make sure the church of Jesus Christ is not dragged into it.
Here are some thoughts, please feel free to add yours:
We need to build serious cross-cultural/ cross-racial relationship NOW! Get out of your comfort zone and out of your building and connect with other leaders in your community. Don’t know what to say? How about, “Hey, this country’s heading into some seriously bad places and we, the people of God need to come together and work through whatever we need to so that we can be God’s people united in this place NOW!
Call for and participate in times of prayer and intercession. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10”3-5). We are fighting strongholds in our own and others minds. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7”14). Our land needs healing. We need to pray and we need to do it together.
As always, we need to take ourselves back to the cross and again ask our Lord to search our hearts, reveal the sin and the strongholds which are probably present, and repent. Nothing will happen in our land that does not happen first in our hearts.
So friends, it’s time to get real with our Lord, ourselves and with each other. It’s time to look around and pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s time to be the answer to our own prayers.
Dictionary.com defines hospitality as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”
Our God is most gracious and hospitable. He created a world that would meet, not just our physical and spiritual needs, but provide us with enjoyment for all of our all our senses. Since he made us all unique and special, he has provided sufficient diversity in the world to satisfy every taste. Wow, this is a good place to stop and give Him some praise!
When you are in the initial stages of your diversity development, your goal is to see the fullness of ethnic diversity found in your town or campus in your congregation. In order to do this, you must transform your perspective from “meeting the needs of those currently attending” to creating a place of welcome and comfort where guests and strangers can be received in a warm, friendly, and generous way. In this context, hospitality becomes a strategy for helping you reach the goal of diversity.
In another sense however, hospitality is not a strategy at all, but a goal. God created the world, I believe, partly as a revelation of his heart of hospitality. In the same way, one of the reasons all local congregations are called to reach every nation, tribe, people, and language around them is that the church’s mission is to manifest God’s heart to the world, and this includes his heart of hospitality. When we only serve/reach part of our community, while ignoring those it would take “extra effort” to reach and serve, we are not being hospitable. Thus, we are not accurately representing God to those around us.
So we first begin with the motivation to manifest or “incarnate” God’s hospitable heart to the world. We realize this means, “all peoples” around us, not just the ones like us. We then think about how we can practically express hospitality through what we do. Here are some suggestions:
1. Think through the messages you are giving outsiders about who belongs and is welcome in your congregation through what they see, hear, and experience. Are the pictures that tell your story of diverse people? Are the people on your platform representative of those you want in your seats? What about the activities you sponsor? Do they appeal to a variety of people? Consider the language you use and the music you play.
2. Think through the culture of your congregation. Is it accessible and understandable for guests and strangers? Is there a bunch of “inside information or ways of doing things” that everyone who regularly attends knows about that is never explained. More than once I have attended a church where only one of the many entry doors are unlocked during service times. Everyone who goes there knows which door to use. Imagine how I felt when I tried a door to find it locked. The message to me was very clear; “if you were one of us, you would know which door to use.” This is not hospitality!
3. Realize hospitality comes with a cost. In the same way David refused to give God an offering that cost him nothing, hospitality that costs us nothing, isn’t hospitality at all. There may be true financial cost of redoing your publications or website, changing the look of your gathering place, and purchasing foods that appeal to a wider variety of people. Still, these are the easy ones. The greater cost comes in inconveniencing our congregants and ourselves as we make changes to appeal to the stranger. Leaders often fear this cost and decide instead to leave things as they are. But it does not have to be this way. Instead of avoiding the issue, deal with it head on. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach and share about God’s love for all people and how Jesus left his home to come into our world so we could know the Father. Challenge your people with the gospel that demands that we pick up our cross and die to ourselves. These are wonderful opportunities for real discipleship that it would be foolish for us to miss.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).
Once, you, a stranger, were brought near to the Father and now you have become part of his family. God had been working all of your life to draw you to Himself with warm, friendly, and generous hospitality. Now, it’s your turn.