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May 02, 2004


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it comes down to attitude of welcoming the oursider to whatever it is we are a part of. and that's a tough thing to do, when the group mentality is one of suspician toward outsiders. especially if they are not of the higher social classes.

this is a study in sociology actually. group influence upon individual behavior.

we are called to break through those barriers. it takes a lot of courage.

One of my old Profs used to tell me this; When Jesus stops offering hospitality to you then you can stop offering it to the one who is thirsty, hungry, etc. This was a great post and hopefully will help us to think differently.


I've been thinking about this a bit since I had a discussion at a job interview about the fact that I take Luke 10 as my philospohy of ministry. The implication being that mission requires us to be dependent on the hospitality of others. That's not to say there's no place for offering hospitality, but I wonder whether the function of it is not really missional. The importance of this is in the power dynamics: as offerers of hospitality we have power over, as receivers of hsopitality we are vulnerabel and cede power to the other ... discuss!?

this reminds me of Mike Yaconnelli's church that threw a picnic for all of the carnival workers that would come to their town year after year. talk about a marginalized group of people - i'm sure they hosted angels unaware. that's the gospel.

he said he thought he was 'doing it for them' but in the middle of the picnic realized that the real hopsitality was ministering to himself. it's the marginalized and the 'church outsider' that really need our hospitality.

"The importance of this is in the power dynamics: as offerers of hospitality we have power over, as receivers of hsopitality we are vulnerabel and cede power to the other ... discuss!?"

Hmmm, Andii -- that's VERY interesting. What immediately comes to mind is the "patron-client" system in place throughout Roman Palestine at the time of Christ (see "Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels", by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, pp.73-76). Insert here also, is the "honor-shame" framework of Palestinian society -- this translates into the one who extends hospitality is acting "honorably" and in the role of "patron." The one receiving the hospitality -- being in the role of "client", would thereby be obligated to the hospitable person. Failure to respond appropriately would be "shameful".

Yes, I think there is some power weilding here. But there's a big "glitch" in this particular way of sociologically analyzing the giving/receiving of hospitality -- and the glitch is agape. Jesus frequently broke through the acceptable social mores and advocated a "higher way". Notions of lending without wanting/expecting it back is one example of this. In that sense, then, the "appearance" of power-weilding through hospitality may be as much a problem of chosen perception as in manipulative intent.


"it's the marginalized and the 'church outsider' that really need our hospitality.

Heidi, I think you're dead on. That's the change-in-focus I believe the institutionalized church in particular needs to adopt.

Coming back on the power dynamic issue. "In that sense, then, the "appearance" of power-weilding through hospitality may be as much a problem of chosen perception as in manipulative intent."

Just the point, I think. We have to be sensitive to the way that our hospitality is perceived both in the offering of it and in the carrying out once accepted. However, in writing "chosen perception" I'm not quite sure what is meant. I think that if you mean that the potential recipient of our hospitality chooses to see it one way rather than another, then I think there is a limited degree to which that is true but mostly, because of socialisation a guest experiences it as a given; i.e. the guest is the disempowered party. I suspect what I think you've said of being a way to throw back on our putative 'guest' a responsibility that really is ours mostly [that's a debating suspicion not a personal one]. Iow if they feel disadvantaged that's not necessarily their fault; it may be mostly the social structure within which we operate and not a slur on our welcome or willingness -which can't be assessed up front necessarily.

It behoves us Christians in the host role to make sure that we mitigate or even eliminate the discomfort and disempowerment [though there are always likely to be limits -we don't want the place trashed, do we?]. Better still though, to develop also and more fully ministries which place us as the guest ministering in weakness.

I rather suspect that the ministry of hospitality in scripture would turn out to be more geared to fellow believers or chance meetings rather than strategic mission. -Without having done/seen the research on that ...

Oh dear! that all looks a bit convoluted now. Short version: the guest position is a missional one and probably to be preferred to a host dynamic. Because our culture construes the power relations in such situations as it does we have to recognise and work with the likely perceptions that people will bring to a situation. If that's any better -which I doubt.

Offering hospitality to outsiders is something I've seen synagogues and Jewish communities wrestle with, too. It's a challenge because we've historically been a minority within a majority-Christian culture, which has caused us to turn inwards and adopt an insider/outsider distinction. I think that distinction, while historically useful, has the drawback of leading to an us/them mentality that's ultimately detrimental to forming genuine human connections between people of different faiths.

Anyway. Interesting post; thanks.

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