Thursday, July 2, 2020
My friend Doug had no interest in Jesus or Church.
His parents took him to Sunday school as a child, he believed in God, he knew the Christmas and Easter stories, and he was familiar with many popular Bible verses, but in his teen years he struggled to connect his experiences in life with what he knew of religion.
I guess you could say that Doug is like a lot of Canadians.
Like many, Doug’s life started to fall apart. His wife left him, and he missed his kids. He lost most of the things that he valued in life and the church was the last place that he would think to turn to for help. I met Doug at a very low point in his life.
We didn’t have much in common, and Doug was a stranger to me and an outsider to my family and circle of friends. There was no way that he would visit our church, but he felt welcomed in our home.
My family included him in our life and eventually he opened his heart to Jesus and a discovered a new purpose.
If you read my previous blog, Understanding Hospitality in a Western Context: Hospitality in Scripture about understanding biblical hospitality you will remember that the biblical concept of hospitality involves much more than the entertaining of family and guests in our homes. For Christians, hospitality is “extending the privileges of community to those who do not have the standing to expect it.”
Hospitality is loving strangers.
Canadians do not have to look far to see strangers.
Dr. Sadiri Tira states: “We are all strangers to one another. Strangers are simply people who are not in our ‘inner circle.’ They are outsiders.”
It can be helpful for Christians to recognize that we are strangers here.
- We are all strangers to God, separated by sin and selfish motivation, but God pours out his love to us and welcomes us (Eph. 2:11-22).
- We are also strangers in this world, set apart to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16, 2:9-12).
Hospitality is the act of building relational bridges toward others through the demonstration of love and compassion.
It is unfortunate, and hurtful when I hear people talk about the Christian church in Canada as being intolerant and exclusive. That was how Doug viewed the church, and he did not want to have anything to do with it.
Yes, the pursuit of holiness sets Christ’s followers apart from most of the world, but Jesus was not intolerant or exclusive.
In fact, the Gospels present Jesus as one who was criticized by the religious leaders of his day for his association with people they would have considered as strangers or outsiders (Matt 9:11; 11:16-19, Luke 19:5-7).
The life of Jesus demonstrated one of his primary teachings, loving our neighbours (Luke 10:25-37, 1 John 4:7-8).
The gospels present God as a good host and his loving welcome is inclusive (Luke 14).
The Balance between Tolerance & Holiness
Canada prides itself in being a tolerant society built around the values of tolerance, inclusion, and acceptance.
Jesus demonstrated how one can balance the tension between pursuing holiness and being a friend of sinners, and he did it through hospitality.
- He extended loving compassion to the people around him.
- He served all who followed him and did not let his disciples turn them away.
- He broke the religious boundaries and spoke with the woman at the well, ate in the home of the tax collectors, he touched and healed the unclean, and was a friend of sinners.
Jesus embraced strangers who were outside of his inner circle.
Christian hospitality seeks to love individuals as God loves them without accepting, validating, or embracing their beliefs and practice which may run contrary to Jesus.
Christians continue to reinforce a misperception of the church when we argue with each other about what may appear to be trivial matters, when we try to impose biblical morals and values on others, and when we do a better job of making people aware of what we are against than what we are for.
Christianity has a long history of being good at defining religion, but our past is a bit checkered when it comes to being ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
One does not have to look very far in history, or in our present culture, to see our faults and failures.
But we should not let our faults define who we are today. We all have a history of sinfulness and failure and yet God extended hospitality to us through His Son Jesus (John 3:16).
Canadian Christians should be known by their love and acts of hospitality. Followers of Jesus should reflect the qualities of the One they are following.
I wonder where Doug would be today if our family had not extended hospitality to him.
Who are the strangers in our neighborhoods? “Otherness” may be defined today by ethnicity, culture, language, belief, values, politics, generation, gender and more.
God loves our nation and He wants to see His church at work, doing what he called us to do.
If we could focus more on loving our neighbors, we could experience a new awakening of the Church in Canada. We could shift the perception of others so that the church is know for its love, hospitality, and inclusion.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada. Craig and his wife Heather have four adult sons. They were involved in pastoral ministry in western Canada for fifteen years before becoming missionaries with OC. Craig served with OC in southern Africa and now leads the ministry in Canada. After returning from Africa, Craig assisted with the formation of the OC Global Alliance, a partnership of over one thousand missionaries working around the world. Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and has recently completed his Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree at the Asia Graduate School of Theology. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada. His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants.
 Scott Cormode, “Biblical Hospitality: Inviting Outsiders to Be Family,” Faithward.Org, November 27, 2019, accessed April 28, 2020, https://www.faithward.org/biblical-hospitality-outsiders-family/.
 Sadiri Joy Tira, “Who Is the Stranger Next Door? An Honest Answer from a Stranger,” Gospel Life, August 23, 2017, accessed April 28, 2020, http://www.gospel-life.net/who-is-the-stranger-next-door-an-honest-answer-from-a-stranger/.
 Allan Levine, “Slow Road to Tolerance,” Canada History, last modified June 19, 2016, accessed April 13, 2018, http://www.canadashistory.ca/Explore/Politics-Law/Slow-Road-to-Tolerance.