I want to say a few words here about hospitality. We tend to think of hospitality mostly as being friendly to guests who visit our homes and our church. Making them feel welcome and comfortable, and taking care of their needs. And this is an important part of what it means to be hospitable.
But there is more. Another equally important part of being hospitable, of extending hospitality, to each other, is being able to agree to disagree, especially on issues where opinions on both sides are strong.
There are many issues on which people of faith hold strong opinions on both sides: abortion, LGBT rights, gay marriage, capital punishment, military spending, the Affordable Care Act, gun control, government economic policies, and politics, to name just some of them. And, of course, we are going into a presidential election year, which brings with it all of the divisions of our partisan political system.
Opinions on both sides of these issues are strong and emotions can often run high. But the debates over these issues are not what disturb me. After all, in a democracy such as ours, such debate is our right and privilege. But what disturbs me is the tone of these debates, which is getting increasingly shrill.
When each side is so convinced of the rightness of their opinion that the two sides no longer seem to be truly listening to each other, this becomes a problem. When this happens, genuine dialogue is no longer possible, and debate degenerates into name-calling and tearing down the other side.
As Christians, we must take care not fall into this behavior. As Christians and members of the church, we are unified in the Body of Christ. That means that our individual behavior either detracts from or contributes to the health and unity of that Body. The Body of Christ is healthiest when each member is contributing his or her gifts and wisdom, and when members are working in harmony with each other.
As Christians, to be hospitable, to live in harmony with one another, means making room for differing opinions. In all things, but especially in areas where there are strong differences of opinion and emotions are high, we are to remain hospitable to each other. This does not mean we always have to agree, but it does mean staying in dialogue and listening respectfully to each other. Nothing is gained, and much is lost, when we allow our differences to divide us.
In Christ’s Love,