Photo credit to Reuters—https://www.reuters.com/world/us/leaked-us-supreme-court-decision-suggests-majority-set-overturn-roe-v-wade-2022-05-03/. No photographer name listed.
[G. L. Hiestand, our pastor] said to us last week… “The Christian life begins with the accepting love of Jesus and then continues with the perfecting love of Jesus,” like a parent moves toward perfecting a child only once the child shows agency. Initially, the parent shows accepting love, and that should continue forever just as Jesus’s accepting love for us is forever. Only once the child shows agency do the parents move toward perfecting the child.
Our shepherd went on to say, “If we only have an experience of his [God’s] perfecting love but do not have a robust experience of his accepting love… we will experience robust failure. If we impose perfecting love on our kids to a degree of experience that outstrips their accepting love, the children will experience rebellion….”
It is common to put accepting and perfecting love in the wrong order. We want people to be perfect before we accept them—before we fully embrace their authentic selves the way we want people to accept our authentic selves with our warts, scars, failures, weaknesses, fears, and all. But Jesus accepts before he perfects, and he calls us to love as he has loved us. As he said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again, in John 15:12 he said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The ten or eleven additional “love one another” passages in the NT flow from this command, as do all of the other “one another” directives throughout the letters of the NT. It would be great if we read them each as “Accept one another first, and concern yourselves with perfecting others later, and even when you do start to perfect, don’t reject, but continue to accept.” Just comfort one another; perfect later. Just encourage one another, perfect later. Just serve one another, pray for one another, confess your sins to one another, and forgive one another; perfecting is riding in the slow lane and will catch up much later.
It is important to get accepting right, for only then can we rightly love as verse 13 says: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
To open our homes for hospitality makes us vulnerable to judgment of our status, material wealth, home decorating and upkeep abilities, culinary skills, curb appeal, and parenting skills. Who wants those to be judged? But boasting is the way of the world. Jesus owns one hundred percent of our homes and allows us to put our names on the deeds and leases. When we gave our minds and bodies to him, we gave our houses…. We gave away criticism of others’ homes, parenting and culinary skills, broken concrete in driveways, and need for exterior and interior paint jobs. We go to others’ homes for the people—for one another.
The term for “hospitality” also is one you would recognize: Philoxenion (like philia + xena, or xenophilia—love of the stranger). It simply indicates “brotherly-love the stranger” (or welcome the stranger – which I also think is the polar opposite of xenophobia). As Sara Kyoungah White recognized in last week’s Christianity Today article on hospitality for introverts, welcoming the strangerdoes not require a domicile or the opening of one’s home. It simply requires us to be accepting of people who we do not know at all, know well, or know deeply.
Xenophobia is what we are facing in our country as refugees come to our shores and hate rhetoric against Asians, Jews, Latinos, and African Americans rises. We need to be people who welcome strangers.
Welcoming does not make or require a political position. If the borders remain closed, we welcome people who are here who are strangers in many forms. If the borders open, we welcome the strangers in our midst. Obeying the exhortation to welcome people unknown, little known, or not deeply known to you would cut through many of the ills we see today.
Again, if I thought for one second that I would walk into a body of believers, be completely welcomed into the family as if I was one of the initiated, knowing I would not receive judgment of my lack of moral or religious perfection, and that if I had a need, asking me to justify it would not be in the first series of thoughts of those helping me, [the local church] would be a place crucial to my happiness and wellbeing. You might as well carve my imprint in the pew because I will be here every week….
We have a unique opportunity to get pursuing strangers right before the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. While we will rightly applaud the rescuing of the lives of the unborn, we need to be prepared to offer brotherly, affectionate, stranger-welcoming, lowering of ourselves, genuine love to many families who will be burdened with the various costs of unwanted pregnancies.
Every post-Roe statistic points to Brown, Black, Indigenous, and poor people with unwanted pregnancies – people who will be strangers to most of us – being those who will be furthest from necessary health care helps needed for mom, child, and families the rest of their lives. If we can be creative and sincere in our welcoming—in giving our very selves to make others part of our lives, contributing to their needs, and doing so before the Court makes judgment—our actions will not be perceived as political maneuvering, but could be accepted as the real care and concern that it will be. Welcoming strangers is part of what can help we who are pro-life be pro-living; it allows us to trade in a political position for a moral disposition.
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