I miss my family sometimes. My only living relative is a brother of mine. I always worry about him. He’s struggled with addiction for a long time. I miss my mom and dad. I wish they were still around. I have a younger brother who died of a drug-related overdose several years ago when we were living in Hollywood. I miss him as well.
When I think back to my youth and young adult years, the church was my family. It was filled with sisters, brothers, moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, and grandmothers. I had youth leaders, youth pastors, pastors, and mentors who played a huge role in my faith journey when I was growing up. Many of them are still part of my life today.
When I was a high school student growing up in Hollywood, I hung out at the church a lot. I was always at the church. I found ways at being at the church. It was the place where I felt safe and at home. If there was a worship service, I’d be there. If there was a youth group event, I found a way to go. Youth camps? Mission trips? Beach days? I was always there. Let’s face it. It was my home away from home. What little of a home I had, the church was my home. It was a place where I knew I would be loved, cared for, and welcomed. I even knew that I’d be fed. Not just emotionally, mentally, spiritually, but physically. I knew there was always food at church. No matter when and where, there was food. If it were a church function, a summer camp, or even after church, there was always something to eat.
When I was in the tenth grade I found out that I had to have lung surgery. I had a cyst that covered my right lung. It was the size of a grapefruit. It was really by God’s grace that I figured out something was wrong. I spent four weeks one summer at a Christian camp that focused on fitness and leadership for high school students. It was during this camp that I realized that something wasn’t right when I noticed that I was always coughing during and after I’d go running. Someone at the church heard that I was always getting sick and connected me with a doctor in the church. We went and visited him and it was in his office he’d tell me that I had the cyst and that it needed to come out. My family was in no way able to afford the surgery that I needed and were in no place to take care of me. I don’t even remember really how and what took place. All I remember is that I had the surgery at a hospital in Pasadena and that it took several weeks for me to recover. I also don’t know who paid for the surgery. Someone did. Whether it was the church or the doctor who performed the surgery, I have no clue who took care of the surgery financially. What I still remember today was the person who invited me to stay in their home while I recovered. How come I didn’t go home after the surgery? Again, mom and dad were in no place to take care of me. This person to this day is one of my biggest cheerleaders. We’ve not really talked much over the years, we’ve seen each other a few times, and with the advent of social media, we might chat online here and there. At the end of the day, I know this person is one of many people in my life who has always prayed for me and my family.
Radical hospitality means going out of your way to ensure someone else is loved and cared for with no strings attached. It means doing something for someone else knowing that you might never be repaid. Radical hospitality means that the love and care you show someone else might go unnoticed, no accolades, no pats on the back. This is what the gospel is all about. It means living as Jesus lived. When no one else would talk to the Samaritan woman, Jesus did. When the lady who was in need of healing believed that by touching his clothes, she’d be healed, she was. It was even a man that Jesus told to pick up his mat, get up and walk and he’d walk again. Everywhere Jesus went, he spoke to people, touched them, grace was received, and lives were changed.
What are you willing to do today when it comes to showing radical hospitality to others? What would it mean if you did something out of the ordinary? What would it look like if the body of Christ actually invited and welcomed anyone and everyone into our lives? Maybe the larger church has changed over the years and maybe it’s a different place. What hasn’t changed is that it’s still made up of people who are trying to figure out what God is calling them to be and do in the world. It’s composed of people who’ve had their lives transformed by Jesus. The problem is that we’ve forgotten what it means to be a radical community not afraid to tell others our stories of how we met Jesus at the well and how he told us to get up and walk.
The next time you hear of or see an opportunity to do something that might involve you being Jesus to someone else or that might involve you giving of your time, let me encourage you to listen to that divine nudge. You never know who it might be. It could be a neighbor, friend, or even a stranger. Radical hospitality requires some risk and a willingness to respond to those moments in your life where whatever is traditional goes out the window. It means trusting those divine nudges.
It doesn’t require really any money, no programs, just people who have some time and who care about helping others feel that they belong and that one day they too will come to experience the generosity of a radical savior calling us to be people who show radical hospitality. Of course radical hospitality comes from a radical community of people who aren’t afraid to risk it all.