The God of Hospitality Alive in Us


“We must be perpetually prepared to offer true hospitality to those in need. If you are Christian you serve a God who “Came to his own, yet was not received by them.” In spite of the unwelcoming nature of this world, this God you serve is the very incarnation of hospitality. Christians everywhere partake of the Eucharist. In this Eucharist we “re-experience” the hospitality of God. In this act of communion Christ offers himself, his very life, to those who will receive him. Through the Lord’s Supper we experience true hospitality. We who seek refuge find new life, spiritual food for our journey, shelter from the terrors of a sinful world, and hope in an ever present savior. If those of us claiming to have Christ in us cannot take the hospitality of our Lord’s table and extend it to those seeking refuge we show an ignorance of what it truly means when Christ says, “Take, eat, this is my body broken for you. Take, drink, this is my blood shed for you.” If Christ invites us into his life without asking anything of us, who are we to ask those seeking to be a part of our lives for qualifications. Be Eucharist to others by receiving the hospitality of Christ offered at his table and extend that life to others through radical love and acceptance regardless of where they come from, their race, religion, or ethnicity. If Christ shares his life with you unconditionally how can you refuse to share yours with others?”


The Things you Regret – The Inactive Form of Love.

indifferenceI teach a course in multicultural psychology. It’s one of my favorite courses to teach. I marvel at the diversity of the human person but also that within that diversity there’s so much we share in common. I know it’s an overused analogy, but what a beautiful bouquet of flowers the human race is. I can only imagine God created it that way so he may “Delight in us” as the scriptures say. In the midst of this diversity I’ve come to marvel at one way we’re all the same and that’s how we view regrets. Studies in multicultural psychology demonstrate regardless of culture people regret the things they’ve never done more than what they have done, even if what they’ve done resulted in mistakes.

In more specific terms, psychologists study something called “Counterfactual thinking.” Counterfactual thinking is a hypothetical belief about your past that could have occurred in order to avoid or change a negative outcome. Basically you use counterfactual thinking when you look back in your life and say to yourself, “If I had only done (or not done) ________ I might be better off.” Maybe it was a decision to enter a particular vocation, leave a particular city, or something as simple as having bought a particular type of car. In the end, counterfactual thinking often leads to feelings of regret. There are two categories of counterfactual thinking. The first group consists of those associated with actions. So you might say to yourself, “If I wouldn’t have eaten that last piece of cake I might not be so sick today”, or “If I wouldn’t have majored in psychology I might be more likely to get that job as business consultant.” The regrets you have are over something you’ve done. The second category of counterfactual thinking has to do with inaction items, those things you wish you would have done. Examples of this category might include thoughts like, “If I would have studied harder at school I might have made something of myself,” or “If I had been a better husband my marriage may not have ended in divorce.” Both of these categories are the types of thoughts that lead us to have regrets and people all over the world have them.

In multicultural psychology we look at these types of thoughts and ask ourselves, “Which category of counterfactual thinking is most prevalent in different cultures and which category do each of these different cultures experience the most? What we’ve found is all people, regardless of culture regret the things they’ve not done more than what they have done. Additionally, in every culture people regret what they haven’t done to the same degree meaning everyone, regardless of where they live, regrets not doing something to the same degree all over the world. We’re most troubled by what we didn’t do. I have a theological speculation why that might be the case I want to share with all of you.

If you look at how God created the human person, we were created for action, and in particular two actions that strike at the core of who we are. We were created to love others and to be loved. Whenever we do not create love or experience love we suffer. In fact love is so important to the human condition those who don’t experience it or are kept from sharing themselves through it suffer disease much more prominently, recover from illness more slowly, and relapse into disease more often. When we cannot do what we were created for we crumble. Like anything created for action, inaction becomes the source of our slow demise. God who is constant action (Pouring himself out for creation and continually renewing all he created through love) created us to be icons of this active love. Everything the human person does is intended to be an extension of the love of God for the created order. Our jobs, our marriages, our relationships, our leisure, all we do is intended to some how love God above all other things, one another as brothers and sisters of the same father, and care for the created order. We were created for action, not to be inactive bystanders who do nothing. Because of that, when improper fear paralyzes us from making ourselves vulnerable to give and receive love; when it keeps us from reaching the potential God invested in us, we have a strong sense of regret. Mistakes are not our enemy, they’re part of how we learn to love more perfectly. inaction and fear are our enemy. We can’t be comfortable in our inactive state, we must be stretched to be a more active agents for the kingdom of God. Innately people are aware of this and that’s why we regret what we didn’t do more than what we have done.

In my role as a minister I’ve had the opportunity to sit with people as they prepared to die. While the evidence is anecdotal at best, in the context of my pastoral care for them the feelings they share with me generally fall under two categories. They want to know if they were loved, but even more concerning to them is whether or not they loved others enough. They regret the love they didn’t show more than their attempts to actualize love. I pray all of you ponder whether or not you’ve become too comfortable in your attempts to actualize love; keeping yourself from “acting” in a more loving way. Never tire from finding new ways to stretch yourself and become more vulnerable for love’s sake. If you do this, your regrets will be minimized. In the end, you will find when you lay your head on your pillow for the last time the comforting voice of God who says, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Why Would Anyone Want to be a Christian?


The gospel life isn’t an easy life.  Nowhere in the scriptures do we read, “Come and follow me and you’ll be healthy, wealthy, untouched by suffering, and experience great prosperity.”  Yes, we find aspects of God’s loving gifts bestowed on the righteous, but these are temporal acts of grace given to us to experience some sense of the wonderful eternal life awaiting all who believe in him.  Everything in this life is temporal, even the blessings we receive.  Their main purpose is to guide us toward the greater blessings of heaven.  In a sense you might say the good we experience in this life is a “sacramental” encounter with the grace of the next.  A life dedicated to living gospel virtues is actually a life of discipline, sacrifice, and psychological discomfort.

If we really look at what it means to follow Christ we find it’s a life dedicated to choosing love when doing so is one of the most difficult choices we can make.  It means forgiving some of the most hurtful things you can experience.  It means turning the other cheek when someone is intent on hurting you, and it means forgiving your enemies.  It’s a life of love lived out in every place and situation you occupy.  To follow Christ means to live selflessly in a world that values selfishness.  Our life is spent in a way that allows others to thrive.  We lay our lives down for others in an effort to allow them to flourish.  It is indeed a life of selfless sacrifice for the kingdom of God.  Living a gospel life means taking scripture so seriously that it challenges us and makes us rethink our beliefs and biases.  We shouldn’t just walk away from reading the bible comforted, there are times reading it should make us shake in our boots!  Being convicted of the greatness and powerfulness of God should make us tremble at the presence of the one who directs all of creation.  When Christ speaks and says, “Follow me” we should be struck to the ground recognizing that the great God of heaven and earth has just personally called us to be his disciples.  When he tells us, “Love your enemy” or “Forgive your brother seventy times seven” we should take that seriously and stop making excuses for why we shouldn’t do that!  We should feel an internal tension between what our natural selves want to do (i.e. destroy our enemies, seek revenge, and be self-indulgent, etc.) and what the life of grace demands.  We can’t be too comfortable with how we live the gospel life, it should always be challenging us and taking us to another level of spiritual growth.  Indifference and comfort with the status quo are killing the spiritual life of the church today.  In fact, the gospel life should mark us just as the nails and scars found in Christ’s crucifixion marked his resurrected body.  Paul reminds us of the need to have the visible marks of the Christian life evident in us when he writes to the Galatians saying:

“From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” – Galatians 6:17

With all this talk of suffering, selflessness, and discipline, one might think, “Who in the world would embrace such a life?  Certainly it isn’t worth it!” Yet, the great spiritual paradox is when we live this way, when we boast in nothing but the cross and embrace him crucified we find rest, peace, and even joy!  The more we pour out our lives for others and live in a manner Christ taught, the more life we have abundantly.  Christ reminds us of this when he tells us:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “ – Matt 11:28-30

If you’re not embracing a life of Christian discipleship and virtue because you believe it’s too intimidating, burdensome, and keeps you from experiencing true enjoyment, be courageous.  Be courageous and embrace a life of love and walk with Christ.  What you believe you’re losing by embracing this Christian life is the very thing you’re gaining.  What you believe will burden you with pain and restriction will only give you joy and freedom.  Become people who radically embrace the Christian life and find your true meaning and purpose in the love you pour out for others.