Declines in hospitality will kill the church. Everybody wants to blame the internet for turning people away from the church. It’s an easy target because it places the blame on faceless people on Reddit writing about the discrepancies between horse stalls reported in Kings and Chronicles when more should be placed closer to home. The church is not immune to the precipitous decline of hospitality in the wider culture and does not have the capacity to weather it. Secular consumer culture has commercial spaces (bars, stores, clubs, hotels, etc..) that are fueled by consumer transactions and while hospitality can arise in these contexts it is not a necessary component. The church is different because hospitality is the medium through which everything else flows. You can’t have kindness, connection, edification, encouragement, and growth of character without hospitality. The early church saw it this way and I don’t think you’ll find any church that doesn’t think hospitality is important, it’s just fighting an inhospitable culture should be a life and death priority instead of just a sentence in a mission statement.
The closer one is to becoming a perfect test-case for grace, the less likely they are to experience any of it. Let’s not forget that grace is unmerited favor. It is commonly used in human-God interaction where we are escaping getting what we deserve from him and instead getting something good. However when it is used on human-human interaction it is often used in contexts where the favor is often merited. In fact it is politically incorrect to state that some people don’t merit our favor. In the world of actions there definitely are people who fall into this category whether it be the person who went to jail for making a stupid mistake, someone who has no regard for social norms, or someone in an institution for starting a fire during a psychotic episode. When we involve ourselves in these people’s lives it shows true grace.
Suffering often is as much of a test of those around a person as it is a test of them. We have this individualistic view of suffering which places all the weight on the person experiencing it. This is only part of the picture though. When someone suffers it often brings out the true colors of those around them. If you fall ill you’ll find out who your real friends are really quickly. If those around this person are Christians they have an obligation to care for their brother or sister in trouble. If they don’t live up to it it should be noted the same way the one who suffers has their errant behavior noted.
God is deadpan. My favorite piece of humor is a picture of a pristine landscape with a Shell logo on it. The caption says, “If there’s oil here, we’ll find it.”. It’s obvious when God is present because people are loving and edifying. It is equally obvious when he’s not. Unfortunately we’ve grown up in an age of political correctness where people who point out the obvious are stigmatized (particularly when the obvious is negative). This results in a status quo that doesn’t change (and many times can’t change).
See Part 1