The news from New Zealand on Friday, March 15, caused my heart to grieve. I grieve that someone would intentionally target others for destructive violence. I grieve that we, as humanity, so easily embrace stereotypical perspectives about others. I grieve that we do not take the time to know and understand those that are different than we are.
I’m a Christian and condemn any form of human thinking that claims supremacy for their own culture or race. I cannot avoid the grief that envelopes my heart when those gathered in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, were violently attacked by a self-avowed white supremacist. Let’s be clear: Not one of us is supreme and no race is supreme. As a white-supremacist, the attacker appeared to be seeking to protect his white supremacy and European isolationism through violence against those that were different than he.
The question arises for me: What must I do to reveal a welcoming heart and display the love of Christ to others? The metro Atlanta area has welcomed many from different nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and philosophies. How do I, as a believer in Jesus and a holder of biblical truth, relate to others different than I? I build relationships. I welcome others into my world. I reach out the hand of hospitality. I become a friend to those around me. I reveal the graciousness of my God and King, Jesus, in my conversations and activities. I must follow what God instructed the Israelites to do in Leviticus 19 and “…treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Lev 19:33—34, ESV). We are to be welcoming as believers in Jesus.
How do we reveal the graciousness of our God and King in our conversations and activities with those around us? I want to suggest five ways: Be hospitable; become curious; seek to understand; bless others; and, remain faithful to truth.
Hospitality does not have to be difficult. Being hospitable begins with a smile and a simple acknowledgement. Let’s see the people around us, in the markets and in the streets. Let us become genuinely concerned for our neighbors and show them the gracious hospitality that we want to receive. The writer of Hebrews states: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:1—2, ESV).
Learn about those that are different than we are. We naturally gather around those who are like us. Let’s break that natural tendency and get to know those around us. Let’s listen for ways we can link in relationship with our neighbors. We will connect better with our neighbors when we become curious about how we can get to know them better. Be a student of culture. Learn from others.
Seek to Understand
Listen to those around us. Our neighbors may be living in fear, may have something to celebrate, or may have a need that we can discover. In the days since the senseless attack in New Zealand, motivated by hate, those that hold to the Muslim faith or who are from other nations around us, may be living in fear. They may fear that we may feel the same hatred toward them just because of their background. Let’s seek to understand that potential and seek to understand their concerns, their lifestyles, and their hopes and dreams. Only by understanding may we build the trust necessary to have positive faith conversations that lead to gracious gospel witnesses.
Let’s take a posture of blessing rather than a posture of superiority. The call to Abraham, in Genesis, was to be a blessing to all nations (Gen 12:1—2). We cannot influence those we are not willing to bless. Blessing others does not mean that we agree with them or that we adopt their culture. Blessing others allows them the freedom to be in our circle of relationships. We engage them in conversation, meals, events, and friendship. This posture toward blessing remains the most beneficial position for those that want to influence others positively.
Remain Faithful to Biblical Truth
Being hospitable, curious, understanding, and a blessing does not necessitate us forsaking our understanding of biblical truth. With a heart softened with the graciousness and love of God and the mind enveloped with biblical truth, we forge out into different cultures and build friendships that will ultimately be a blessing. I am convinced that people do not react so harshly to us holding to biblical truth, but to us claiming to hold truth while spewing hateful glances and spiteful comments.
Remember that what is inside the heart will spew forth eventually. Become so intimately related to Jesus that we can be touchable to those around us without sacrificing the truths we hold dear. I believe that others should come in contact with followers of Jesus and discover that it did not hurt. So, go and be hospitable, curious, understanding, and faithful to biblical truth as you become a blessing to all our neighbors.
Let’s Be Great Neighbors,