I read a quote this morning that really made me stop and think, it comes from Henri Nouwen;
To pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains. Compassion, therefore, calls for a self-scrutiny that can lead to inner gentleness
(Henri Nouwen – The Genesee Diary)
There were three words that lept out at me from this quote.
The firstly word was hospitality. I wonder if many Christians today are losing touch with this most important of gifts. We expect our Churches to be places of welcome (especially toward us) but, what about our homes? Think about it, when was the last time you invited somebody you do not know so well to come and have coffee with you?
One of the sad facts in our society today is that community is slowly dying. We, as a society, are becoming more self-absorbed and focused upon the individual. I am sad to say I see this trend entering the Christian Church. One of the reasons, I think, that there is an increase in isolation, loneliness and fear is as a result of the loss of community.
I believe that Christians have a unique form of community based on and around the person of Jesus Christ. However, too many in the Church have a “come to us” mentality when, in fact, Jesus tells us to go to them (see Matthew 28 vs. 19).
The second word that challenged me was the word listen. Listening is part of the gift of hospitality. We do not invite people to come in without creating space to listen. I think that is part of what the story of Martha and Mary is about (Luke 10 vs. 38 – 42). Martha is concerned with the mechanics of hospitality , Mary is concerned with the listening of hospitality. I think that’s why Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better way. If you look at the painting by Velazquez (from 1618) I think Martha’s expression says it all!
To really listen to somebody is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
The final word was “compassion”. The listening we do must not just be surface only but, it must be listening with our hearts. Our hearts need to be touched by the stories we hear so that we can truly pray for those we give hospitality too.
The quote from Henri Nouwen really made me think today about what part hospitality plays in my life and ministry. How about you, will you look around you today and ask “who can I show hospitality to?”