In those days, when there was again a large crowd [gathered before Him] and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and told them, “I feel compassion for the crowd; they have been with Me now for three days and have nothing [left] to eat. If I send them away to their homes hungry, they will faint [from exhaustion] on the road; because some of them have come a long way.”Mark 8:1-3
A few weeks ago, I said that it was difficult to write about hospitality during a pandemic. I was wrong. My world was too small. This week I read an interview with our friend, Rosaria Butterfield, (The Gospel Comes with a House Key). Rosaria is a pastor’s wife, and has practiced and encouraged, sometimes radical, hospitality in her Durham, NC neighborhood. In her interview – Podcast: Practicing Hospitality in a Pandemic (Rosaria Butterfield) – she shares what her family continues to do by reaching out to those around them with the love of Christ, reflects on our tendency to spend more time reading the news than reading our Bibles, and calls on Christians to fight against the fear that threatens to destroy our witness. Please note that Rosaria admonishes that hospitality can be practiced in many different ways which are not the same for each of us. Rather, note the principles that surround the gift of hospitality offered to those around around us.
We should quietly be going about the business of church. For the Butterfield family, this pandemic time focused their Christian calling. They relied more heavily on grace, prayed for discernment and boldness, and continued on in their ministry of hospitality. The reason to continue was this: “When you have a situation where you’ve got lockdowns, people are feeling disenfranchised, depression is up, people are losing their jobs – there are all these things – what the Christian church needs to do is love better and love more. For their family, they felt that perhaps they were a little like the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 in quietly going about the business of the church. How?
Instead of their five kids in their home, there were twenty, because kids needed a place to be before their parents were home to figure out what to do next.
Because friends – especially single friends – who had been part of large churches and large ministries, had their lives derailed, everybody with a phone that could FaceTime had somebody on FaceTime during family devotions every night.
They checked in on their neighbors.
After becoming aware that food, grown by farmers and packaged for restaurants, was being wasted because restaurants were closed, she and her daughter got a job in food distribution so food intended for restaurants could go to homes instead. Their physical church building, which could not be used for worship, became a food distribution site.
Even as they distributed food and sometimes gave it away, they were able to share verbally and to demonstrate the gospel of God’s love to their neighbors.
Another principal Rosaria talked about is the need not to panic during a pandemic. There is a need to remember that our good and wise and just God had a purpose in allowing His children to experience this COVID time. We are to pray to be of one mind, that being to have the mind of Christ. As part of their conversation with their children, here’s part of what was said,
They included their children and appointed them to high positions as they rolled up their sleeves and prepared to care for their neighbors. They did this because they wanted to make sure that no one around them would lose confidence in the Lord, they no one would fail to keep their hands to the plow, that no one would listen to the words of Satan and not trust the Lord. They wanted to make sure that they are helping to uphold and uplift each other, and also they wanted to really think about and care about the people who don’t yet know the Lord and the people who’s lives are in financial ruin.
A third principle that Rosaria focused on was to maintain consistency amidst chaos. She speaks to the temptation that we all have felt to protect ourselves, protect our families, and to get self-focused and lose sight of other things – other people, their needs, and any way that we can meet them in that. We tend to lose sight of simple spiritual disciplines that help us to be thinking about others instead of ourselves.
Continue with morning and evening devotions, and invite others in to join them. Open windows so that others can feel comfortable in doing that.
Read together as a family – Daniel Defoe’s book, A Journal of the Plague Year, written from his perspective as a five-year-old during a plague which starts with What would have made it worse is if we had had newspapers.
Instead of getting sucked into all kinds of media, to remember that during the plagues in Egypt, when there was darkness all around, there was light in the homes of the children of Goshen, where God’s children were.
Rosaria’s final principle in her interview is that repentance is the threshold to God.
Here, again, Rosaria reminds us that hospitality is not a one-size-fits-all. This is not a works theology.
There is much more in Rosaria’s podcast. Please feel free to listen to the link through Crossway. The purpose of what Rosaria said, and what we all need to be reminded of, is that, as we are being conformed to the image of Christ, we should be becoming more like Him in our compassionate care for others, as we minister to their hunger, their homelessness, their loneliness, their discouragement.
Lord Jesus, help us to love and become like you. Help us to love others as we love You.