When I was a young adult, I lived for a couple of years in an intentional community in a working-class neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee. We fashioned ourselves a bit like the early Christian community: working for justice, each contributing to the whole according to our ability to give, eating together and sharing a covenant to be Christ in the world. (See Acts 2:43-47.)
But I had a judgmental and rigid nature when it came to sharing living space. I had certain rules about order and organization and how things should be cleaned and taken care of. I spent my energy obsessing about how other people should do things more like me. After a time of turmoil, I moved out of the community. I was unable to foster a sense of hospitality toward the people with whom I lived.
Today, I still struggle with rigidity and being judgmental. But I think, I hope, my heart continues to expand in its hospitality. I recognize the struggles of others in this area. Motivated by fear or judgment, we struggle today with welcoming those who are different than we are. We see this in our nations and around the world as countries target immigrants and refugees with hatred and discrimination. We see this in our faith communities as they struggle over welcoming those who have a different sexual createdness into full participation in the ministries of the church.
We separate ourselves from each other through labels: Rich/Poor. Christian/Non-Christian. Conservative/Liberal. Straight/LGBTQ. Citizen/Undocumented. Person of Color/White. Young/Old. And yet, we follow the one who broke down barriers of law, gender, class, and race, proclaiming a Love that transcends all divisions. How do we live into that transcending love in our daily lives?
As Peter Storey says, when we open our hearts to Jesus, it’s not just Jesus that we welcome. Jesus brings his friends—the neighbor whose political persuasion is opposite ours, the friend who is unhoused, the gay or lesbian teenager. Jesus says to us, “Love me, love my friends!” (Peter Storey, Listening at Golgotha. Upper Room Books: 2004.)
Loving God, enter my heart. Remove from me the rigidity of judgment, the fear that erects barriers, the need for control, the desire for others to be more like me. Give me a heart of hospitality, full of warmth, generosity, and acceptance. I am yours, Gentle God. Amen.
Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and Upper Room worship life.
Adapted from Alive Now, May/June 2014. Copyright © 2014 The Upper Room.
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