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 to hospitality than simply being welcoming. Another part of being hospitable, of extending hospitality, to each other, is being able to agree to disagree with civility. This aspect of hospitality is particularly important in our country today.
In my lifetime, I have never seen us so politically, racially, economically, or spiritually divided as a nation, and there are many causes for these divisions. But in my perception, one reason for the strength of these divisions, and particularly out political and religious divisions, is the lack of willingness by people on both sides to simply listen honestly and engage in respectful conversation with people who hold differing views. Because social media allows us to filter our friendships, decide who we will or will not follow, chose what groups we belong to, pick and choose our news sources, and control what we see on our news feeds, too often we see only what confirms our own biases. I know that I have been guilty of this myself. This is one reason that I have chosen to get off of Facebook for the rest of the year.
There are many issues on which people of faith hold strong opinions on both sides: politics, abortion,
immigration, LGBTQ rights, gay marriage, military spending, health care, gun control, and government economic policies, to name just a few.
Opinions on both sides of these issues are strong and emotions 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.
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, to be hospitable, to live in harmony with one another and our neighbors, 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. My prayer is that in the coming weeks and months, we will remember that we have far more that unites us than divides us, and learn, once again, to truly listen to and talk with each other.
In Christ’s Love,