“The strangeness of strangers makes hospitality hard. As we’ve watched cable news and our social-media feeds, we’ve all witnessed our failures in extending hospitality to strangers, our unwillingness to welcome people into our nation, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, churches, homes, and hearts. The refugee family stopped at our borders. The homeless person sleeping on our streets. . . . And far too often, Christians have been the worst offenders, the very first to greet strangers with Keep Out signs. . . . Like the goats in Matthew 25, we refuse to welcome Jesus in disguise. . . . But hearts aren’t easily changed. You can’t change hearts with pep talks, protests, podcasts, Facebook rants, tweets, or a really good sermon. Hearts require spiritual formation through habits and practices that directly address the social and psychological dynamics at work . . . . Hospitality demands more than good will and good intentions. Emotions, including social emotions, are not easily changed. You can’t fix depression by telling someone, “Cheer up!” You can’t get someone to become less angry just by admonishing, “Calm down” or less anxious by saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” . . . If you find some people irritating, annoying, or revolting, a demand that you should feel differently isn’t practical. . . . There are two big missing pieces in our efforts to welcome the stranger God. The first missing piece is that hospitality, before it can be anything else, begins as the emotional battle to widen the circle of our affections. Theologian Miroslav Volf calls this “the will to embrace.” [And a] second missing piece: that hospitality begins as a spiritual discipline, as a habit-forming practice aimed at expanding the bandwidth of our kindness and compassion. . . . When we think of ‘spiritual disciplines,’ we think of practices like prayer, silence, solitude, Bible reading, Sabbath, and fasting. . . . Through spiritual disciplines, we seek a deeper intimacy with God, . . . an encounter with the sacred and divine. While these spiritual disciplines move us toward God, they routinely fail to move us toward each other. This is the genius of the Little Way, lost spiritual discipline [of Thérèse of Lisieux,] a habit-forming practice that moves us toward each other so that our affections for each other expand and widen. The Little Way is a spiritual discipline of hospitality and welcome. . . . a habit-forming discipline that enables us to en-counter the God who comes to us in disguise . . . in coworkers, neighbors, refugees, the homeless, and the people in the line with us at the grocery store.” Richard Beck
Moving From Head to Heart
*How often are you frightened, annoyed, or repulsed by strange people?
*Have others sometimes judged you for seeming strange?
*What new habit could you begin to practice that could begin to break down your aversion to those who seem strange? . . . to train you in kindness and compassion?
Abba, expand my bandwidth for kindness when it’s hard.
For More: Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise by Richard Beck
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