Hospitality is making others feel at home. Some folks make you feel at home. Others make you wish you were.”
— Arnold Glasgow
If you stop and think about it–and let’s stop and think about it–the “Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “Community of God.”
In the beginning, before there was us and Earth and the moon and the stars and galaxies far, far away, God was a community of three: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Trinitarian God, who as an act of grace created us and everything else, created us to be in loving community (“love your neighbor as yourself”) with one another.
The Son, who ushered in the Kingdom (Community) of God and Heaven on Earth and left us in charge of advancing the, uh, Community, said that “the Kingdom (Community, that is) has come near you.”
And there is this from Matthew 7: 21:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom (community) of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Think “community” anytime you see any one of those many references to “the kingdom” in your Bible.
Think of how “kingdom” can be translated even in the prayer that the Son taught us to pray:
“Thy Community come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.”
A Christian can live in nothing but community, ideally being fully present with others in love and all that love implies (forgiveness, mercy, justice, peace).
The Community of God comes near whenever and wherever two or more brothers and sisters in Christ, motivated by their faith, are giving witness to the God of extravagant love, endless grace and tender mercies.
Jesus left us to be a Community of God that is a sacramental expression of the covenant of the Kingdom (Community) above.
The Christian Kingdom/Community as I see it begins with a few fundamental elements:
Arnold Glasgow quipped:
“Hospitality is making others feel at home. Some folks make you feel at home. Others make you wish you were.”
Christian hospitality is based on the Greek words: philo (love) + xenon (strangers).
Many scriptures cut right to the hospitality thing:
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13: 2)
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12: 13)
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”
Sharing is of course about as fundamental to Christian Community life as it can be.
The first Christians were, to our modern sensibilities, overzealous to the utmost extreme about sharing–especially to those of us who are United Methodist.
It’s our belief that simply sharing our food at pot-luck dinners is the ultimate in community sharing and the surest route to heaven (he said with his tongue firmly pressed against cheek).
Still, Acts 4: 32-37 is there, in the Bible, challenging Methodists and all Christians to think about just how stingy we can be in this modern era. That is, an era in which we expect government or some other church or non-profit agency or program or anybody but us to take care of those that we don’t necessarily want to be present with in Community:
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
We don’t have to sell everything and give it to the church or a ministry to be faithful witnesses, of course.
But such scriptures challenge us to think hard about what we are willing to give up for the advancement of the Kingdom/Community of God on Earth as if it were Heaven, don’t they?
3. Impartiality, inclusion
First of all, see “Hospitality” above–it’s about making all feel at home, including the strangers and aliens who are “not from around here.”
Consider just one scripture from James 2:
1 My brothers and sisters [of the Community of God] do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,
3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Advance the Kingdom of God at every opportunity and your witness to the power of it will be enough to make those living outside the Community want to live there with you.