Hospitality and Relational Love

 

Taken from the latest edition of NCM Magazine. Click HERE to read more!

Photo: Scott Bennett

Photo: Scott Bennett

The Christian notion of compassion in the New Testament, is translated: “to be moved in our innards.” Various points in the Gospels describe Jesus as “moved in his gut” for sheep without a shepherd. Today there is a temptation for us to reduce compassion to "a gut feeling." This, however, is a mistake. Christian compassion is not an emotion or response that can pass one by. Compassion draws us into a response in our inner being. It remains, it resurfaces, it grows, it may even haunt for a time, especially if it isn’t addressed. 

When we are moved with compassion, we are invited to be changed by the same compassion, hospitality, and love of God the Father and reflected in Jesus the Son. In Jesus the Son, God drew near to us in our brokenness, sin, and lost state. God built a home with us in this world to extend the love, grace, and power of his Reign. And we are invited to reflect the same in all our encounters with God’s creatures.

 
Photo: Beth Luthye

Photo: Beth Luthye

Hospitality is often presented in the church as a biblical mandate. Yet, it is so much more. Hospitality is tied to the same relational love profoundly characterized by Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, as well as Yahweh’s and Jesus’ own compassion and love for humanity reflected in Scripture. Therefore, hospitality as rooted in God's character and way of acting, is not simply a mandate. Rather, it is more properly seen through God’s interaction with the creatures he loves—it is an invitation by God and a means by which to encounter God and neighbor (and ourselves) more fully. Hospitality is at the root of how we are called to live relationally. More powerful than a mandate, the God of the Universe is inviting us into His way of love and way of relationship with us. Hospitality is not a coerced response; it is an invitation into love and joy.

 

As we draw near to others and act with compassion in our own lives, we come to realize that this is about what God is doing. All the plans of love and restoration in and for our world are plans that God has in store through us, His children. ◼︎

 

Nell Becker Sweeden has been serving in Nazarene Compassionate Ministries since 2004 and is presently the International Director, as well as CEO of NCM, Inc. She has conducted trainings and lectured in over a dozen countries.  

Nell holds a PhD in Practical Theology from Boston University and is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. She is author of Church on the Way: Hospitality and Migration.