In last week’s Voice of Grace, I mentioned a book by Rosaria Butterfield that I called one of the most important books I’ve read because I NEEDED to hear its message. In today’s Part 2, I’d like to share a few thoughts on why I believe the church also needs to hear this message and consider what changes we might make to our lives, not for the sake of merely sharing meals, but for the sake of the Gospel.
Butterfield was drawn to faith in Christ from a lifestyle of militant feminism as a practicing lesbian in the academic community. Everything about Christians and Christianity was revolting to her (described in her earlier book titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert). What was her first connection to a real, live Christian who could tell her about the real, (a)live-again Savior? It started with a simple invitation by a pastor and his wife to their dinner table for conversation and a home-cooked meal. This pastor could have tried to engage this intellectual with arguments supporting the resurrection of Jesus. He could have wielded philosophical techniques, looking for a weakness to attack. Instead, he and his wife stoked their fireplace, baked fresh bread, and invited a stranger into their home to share a bit of life. Very ordinary domestic life proved to be a powerful evangelistic tool, which has led Rosaria—now married with children—to practice “radically ordinary hospitality.”
Her household buys twice the amount of groceries their family would normally need in order to provide for the guests they’ll end up inviting on a moment’s notice. They sacrifice in order to give away. (Read 2 Corinthians 8 for an example of this). Their home has become a gathering place for neighbors. They befriended the one guy everyone else shunned…and they paid the price when he was arrested for the meth lab in his basement. But today, he’s a follower of Christ, because even after that betrayal, Rosaria’s family—including their young children—loved this “unlovable” man with the love of Christ. Her family adopted a teenage girl—against her will—only months before she became a legal adult. Rosaria rejects any thought that it was a mistake, that it was for nothing, because their family had an opportunity to tangibly display the love of Christ, to participate in something at the heart of salvation: adoption of what the Bible calls “the fatherless” into a family.
This kind of “super-Christian” stuff can make me feel guilty. Instead, if I’m secure in who God declares me to be, through faith in the perfect Savior, I can experience real conviction of sin (selfishness, greed, idol of comfort/pleasure), repent, and endeavor by the grace of God to make change. I’m still praying and reflecting.
I wonder if dramatic, yet simple changes to everyday life (e.g., our TV-watching, dinner-eating, phone-swiping everyday habits) might be the key to unlock the power of God in and through us? Do you wish you could change the world? See dramatic spiritual transformation before your very eyes? Do you want to make an impact in your community? I think Rosaria Butterfield has much to teach us. Listen to her own words, in closing:
My prayer is that this book will help you let God use your home, apartment, dorm room, front yard, community gymnasium, or garden for the purpose of making strangers into neighbors and neighbors into family. Because that is the point—building the church and living like a family, the family of God. My prayer is that you will stop being afraid of strangers, even when some strangers are dangerous. My prayer is that you will grow to be more like Christ in practicing daily, ordinary, radical hospitality, and that the Lord would bless you richly for it, adding to his kingdom, creating a new culture and a new reputation for what it means to be a Christian to the watching world. My hope is that daily fellowship would grow your union with Christ and that you would no longer be that Christian with a pit of empty dreams competing madly with other reigning idols, wondering if this is all there is to the Christian life. My prayer is that you would see that practicing daily, ordinary, radical hospitality toward the end of rendering strangers neighbors and neighbors family of God is the missing link.
I’m still chewing on this, praying and reflecting. If you do the same, please let me know how the Lord’s shaping your heart.
Peter Wang is the Senior Pastor of GRC.