Many relationships today—with God and each other—are more like a fast-food experience than a real holiday feast. In a culture of fast-food, it is difficult for us to understand how important feasting was and is for most of the world. The deep human connections found in feasting and hospitality are connections we all desire and need. Who doesn’t love a good Thanksgiving meal? But the problem of real loneliness affects everyone. While speaking before the U.S. Congress, Mother Theresa told them,
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are much more dying for a little love.
She would later write, “The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
As a culture, we have forgotten where meaning and purpose come from. We seek the “abundant life” in the sheen of the new car, the convenience of fast-food, and the polished life of American idols in Hollywood. Our culture’s powerful current runs through us all, driving our imagination and desires. Most people are willing to sacrifice anything for this dream life, even the things we want and need. As a result, our souls are starving for community and vulnerability. What we need to realize is that God sees this. He cares. He has compassion on us because we are like sheep without shepherds. He has done something about it.
Slowing Down in a Fast-Food World
There seems to be less and less time for cultivating true community with face-to-face interaction. Through social media, a community has the appearance of deep, meaningful interaction with others. But studies continue to show that these avenues fail to provide the intimacy and human community that we desire. In fact, they fill our world with more distractions from intimacy than we imagine.
Our lifestyle choices have made it more difficult to live in a community. We need to come to grips with our lifestyle choices and how they help create this poverty. Has chasing this dream altered our vision of Christian duty and responsibility to those around us? How should our lifestyle choices orient us to a biblical understanding of Christian love in our modern world?
While it may be “easier” and more practical to avoid the messy lives of others, our lives are, in the process, deprived of what makes us human. We are being starved by not serving the poor and the widow (James 1:26-27).
Hospitality has become a foreign practice to our culture. To think that hospitality is fundamental to our humanity sounds strange and odd to us. But it is something essential to the very Christian faith itself. The entire drama of redemption is an act of hospitality. God the Father is making room for humans in the life he shared eternally with the Son and the Spirit. Because of his love we enter into true, lasting, intimate community. God made us for this community and redeems us into this kind of life-together (Matt. 22:1-12).
Participating in God’s Generosity
God does something about our loneliness and separation caused by sin. His generosity continues to reach into a fallen world of sin, where fragmentation, strife, and war seem to make peace impossible. In Christ God does the humanly impossible and spreads a feast for aliens, strangers, and enemies and turns them into a family. He fills our soul’s deepest needs and greatest poverty. He himself is the gift that he wishes to shed abroad in our hearts, even in our very bodies (Rom. 5:5). This is the new creation work he is still doing in the church. This love cannot but trickle out into our daily lives (Matt. 25:36-40).
God has called us to show that ordinary love. We use the small gifts he has given to us to speak eternity into the lives of others. If you have experienced this hospitality, you know how it's the little things that can change a person’s life. God calls us to this kind of life and he equips us as well. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Our God has given us many temporal blessings in this life, not merely for self-gratification, but in order that we might serve those in need around us. We can spread abroad his goodness. Our identity is now defined by the hospitality of God. We are being formed into people who are generous.
God has chosen not only to save us and bring us to his feast but to use sinners like us to invite all men, women, and children into the festival of grace. God’s goodness transforms us from being “hoarders” of this world’s pleasures to dispensers of the gifts God has given us for the benefit of others. Whether through the creation of orphanages, hospitals, schools or even in the preparation of simple meals, Christians have shared God’s love through very tangible means. This kind of hospitality is an indispensable part of Christian missions.
Fruitful relationships often take a back seat to career goals and accomplishments. Christians must recover hospitality now more than ever. Practicing hospitality in an exhausted and stressed-out age opens so many doors (Gal. 6:9–10). Within the communities of church, family, and work, God creates a place where his goodness becomes the avenue for his truth to be seen and heard. As Paul reminds us, the goodness of God leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
In the wilderness of modern life, God calls us to slow down and find a feast spread for us. God invites us to spread his goodness to those we meet. He invites us to bring as many people to the feast as possible (Matt. 22:1-12). This is the great missionary moment to which God has called each one of us. He has given us his Spirit so that our very words and actions—our hospitality—might impart grace to a needy, desperate world (Eph. 4:29). Our world desires what God alone can give. What a great opportunity we have.