I had the privilege recently to read Radical Hospitality, and its implications toward artful living and worship are so very helpful.
I’ve read hundreds of books on hospitality over the course of my track in ministry, and it is a pleasure to see the authors place the accent mark where they do. They state that real hospitality is not in what we do, but in who we are. They say that hospitality begins with a person’s identity, and “it is about the heart made ready.”¹ “Only the secure person can live with an open heart,”² and this is the bottom line to gaining a perspective of loving and welcoming strangers. We first have to know that we were once a stranger to God’s family and were welcomed into son-ship by our King, Jesus! This is the genesis of hospitable intrigue.
Not only has Jesus’ hospitality toward us helped us to realize who we are as his children, but our heart’s openness toward others also strives for the same goal. “Hospitality is a way to help others discover their true selves. They need to see that precious person reflected in our eyes sometimes, before they can believe it for themselves.”³ Because this is the focus of all Christian charity, hospitality requires that our focus remain on the other rather than on the attainment of a concept. In this fashion, this book challenges many of the pop culture writings on hospitality, which places its emphasis more on the task and pragmatic concept of hospitality than on the person’s heart.
This book provides a refreshing read and glimpse inside Benedictine spirituality and perspective, as they are passionate about the “distribution of self for the sake of the other.” Their interest in the other is so profound that Brother Benedict is known for the sole quality of being always, “profoundly present.” What a statement of absolute concern for the other. He is never caught up so much in his own self-awareness, self-doubt, and fears that he becomes jaded toward the other.
Finally, I find the monks’ perspective fascinating concerning hospitality’s ability to defeat our own fears and selfish inward appetites. It’s stated that, “unless we find a way to open ourselves to others, we will grow even more isolated and frightened. If we do not find and practice ways of hospitality we will grow increasingly hostile. Hospitality is the answer to hostility. Jesus said to love your neighbor; hospitality is the avenue.” Thus, “hospitality is a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion either to turn away or to turn inward and disconnect ourselves from others.” Facing a stranger is not only coming to grips with the transformation and complexion in humans of the “divine,” but also a pivotal chance to be “faced with their own worst fears.”
Hospitality is the artful expression of worship itself!
¹ Ibid, KL 1905
² Ibid, KL 826
³ Ibid, KL 2203-2004