What comes to your mind when you hear the word hospitality? It usually reminds me of the experience I had when I visited a country in another continent.
I thought Colombians were good hosts until a family from a different culture hosted me. It was just amazing: the amount and quality of food they offered, their tangible efforts to make me feel very welcomed, every detail in my room, their questions, their respect and readiness to serve in every possible way.
However, more than anything else, it was their attitude that touched me. They were ready to stop all their activities and just focus their generous hearts on serving their guest.
Hospitality is defined as the ability to pay attention to a guest. This is very difficult because we are troubled by our own needs. Our own concerns prevent us from shifting our focus from ourselves towards others. If sin is the focus of the soul on itself, as Augustine of Hippo described it, then a life without sin is one that is able to focus on others. In other words, a life of hospitality is a life with no sin.
Jesus is the best example of what hospitality means. In his life and death on the cross, God enters into the world of human existence. Through his compassion, he focuses his attention on others instead of on himself. It is through Jesus’ suffering and brokenness that God shares the mortality, frailty and vulnerability of humanity. And then, in the book of Revelation, Jesus makes room in his glory for the multitude of all the nations that come to worship him.
Jesus’ attitude and focus on the other brings healing to the people who have been abused, who have experienced pain and suffering. Neither the injustice of Jesus’ wounds, nor the reality of his ultimate triumph and lordship lead him to take care of himself. He is there to bring comfort, guidance and to shepherd others. Jesus has come to serve, not to be served – and this even in his glory.
Today, when we face the crisis of refugees that we see around the world, our call to hospitality as the body of Christ invites us to reveal God’s presence in the midst of that suffering and pain. It is a call to provide hope, healing, guidance and care. It is a call to focus our attention on those that are persecuted, sick and without a home. Even though we may experience many needs and enough problems to worry about, the call to serve others is still there. Regardless of our poverty, lack of resources, disagreements, conflicts, projects and plans, the call to focus our attention on others is still there.
That is the reason why this issue of Courier/Correo/Courrier addresses this topic. The family that received me was such a good host not only because of their culture but also because of the way in which they lived out their experience of Christ. May God lead our global community to respond to others with the same attitude, living out our experience of God according to the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ!
—César García, MWC general secretary, works out of the head office in Bogotá, Colombia.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2016.