Friday, March 29, 2019

The Hospitality in Introductions

The other day I drove past a bulky SUV with a prominent bumper-sticker that said “Pro God. Pro Life. Pro Gun.” That is quite an eye-catching introduction. Now that you know where this person stands on three big topics, I imagine you could fill in the gaps on their other interests and opinions. You probably already know if you would get along with the owner of this hulking vehicle.

By the mere fact that you’re reading this blog, I can probably guess where you stand on the first of those three statements. The other two are a different story. You may agree with all three, or disagree, or allow room for a little more nuance. But if you had the choice, would you introduce yourself with these exact three phrases? The whole thing rings with so much dissonance and overtone that there is no doubt in my mind the driver hopes to not only make themself known but also unsettle a few folks in the process. These are not benign interests but bold proclamations. I, for one, cannot imagine shaking someone’s hand and saying “Hi, I’m Chad. I love Jesus, and here’s what I think about gun control.”

Introductions are vital to hospitality. They can either be an invitation to relationship or a gate to divide. We can screen someone to see if they are someone we agree with, or we can meet one another with genuine curiosity in each other’s lives. I would like to think that when first-time guests come through the doors of St. Mark, they feel that open welcome which won’t turn them away because of their beliefs or their history or the way they look. Bumper-sticker introductions, on the other hand, might as well be locks on the doors.

These days, it can be hard to find common ground with those who hold differing political convictions. And yet, I see so many do that very thing every Sunday. There is more to your identity than the stances you take on the current political climate. That is especially true for us Christians who are to hold Christ above all other things in every aspect of life.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul talks about dealing with a hot-button issue of the day, specifically eating meat from the pagan temples. It’s a complicated situation, and he basically says that no matter what side you stand on to consider how your actions affect others. If our convictions in worldly things harm and divide, he says we are essentially harming Christ himself.

You may have convictions that are deeply rooted in your faith. And I am sure you have opinions about worldly affairs as well. We do not always need to agree in order to have authentic relationships. In all these things, Christ is best served when are slow to voice our views and quick to listen with care to those who think differently than us. As Paul writes in another letter, this time to the Philippians, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

Pastor Chad McKenna

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