Have you lost your reputation yet?
I recently watched a video based on the book Jim and Casper Go to Church. The book, which I haven’t read yet but is on its way (thanks to Amazon 1-click!), is the story of an atheist who visits our churches and offers up his opinion. I am anxious to read his words, painful as they are likely to be. If you want to, watch the video over on Ed Bahler’s blog, here.
The words that convicted me are these: Matt Casper asks us as Christians to invite him into our homes and our hearts before trying to “sell” him on our religion. This statement, from an atheist, is perhaps the best theology of hospitality that I have read recently. So many times in our homes and in our interactions in the community we are only willing to extend a superficial friendship, a shallow grace. We are willing to sit and chat with an “outsider” (to use the term the book unChristian uses), but we are very slow to open our hearts in true friendship. To some of us, it is even unthinkable if we are honest with ourselves.
And yet, through the ages of Christianity the act of sharing a meal in friendship has been the most powerful demonstration of just what Christ did for us. Matt Casper’s comment reminded me of a chapter in Brennan Manning’s class book The Ragamuffin Gospel. Consider this quote:
In the year of 1925, if a wealthy plantation owner in Atlanta extended a formal invitation to four colored cotton pickers to come to his mansion for Sunday dinner, preceded by cocktails and followed by several hours of brandy and conversation, the Georgia aristocracy would have been outraged, neighboring Alabama infuriated, and the Ku Klux Klan apoplectic. Sixty or seventy years ago in the deep South, the caste system was inviolable, social and racial discrimination inflexible and indiscretion made the loss of reputation inevitable.
Today the lines of reputation in the Christian community are not based on race, as in 1925, but they are based on insider standing. Outreach to an outsider is permissible, perhaps coffee, but inviting them into your home? Scandalous.
So I ask you, have you lost your reputation yet? I know my reputation is still largely intact, a matter of conviction that Matt Casper so kindly pointed out. And he is so right. One more quote from Ragamuffin Gospel.
Through table fellowship Jesus ritually acted out his insight into Abba’s indiscriminate love — a love that causes His sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and His rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike (see Matthew 5:45). The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, symbolized in table fellowship, is the most dramatic expression of the ragamuffin gospel and the merciful love of the redeeming God.