Part V of our series on Opening Your Home
In our last post, we explored how receiving Christ is a physical act that changes us spiritually (not vice versa) and the ramifications this has for things like the sinner’s prayer. One good example of this truth is in Christmas itself: the Word of God become man. But the consistent witness of Scripture is that nothing has changed. This is still the way God works and it has significant impact for how we think about the Work of Mercy of Opening Your Home.
In Romans 10:13-15 Paul says that the Gospel always comes with a messenger attached; one’s reception of the messenger is synonymous with one’s reception of the message:
13…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
In the New Testament, the treatment of those feet is regarded as the bellwether response to the message.
Jesus equates himself with the messengers he dispatches.
The one who receives the messenger hospitably and gives heed receives Christ himself. The affirmative response is not, then, mental assent (receiving Christ “into your heart”) but rather hospitality extended to the messenger and the Good News the messenger brings.
As Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” In contrast to the Sinner’s Prayer approach, where the work of intellectual assent is the gateway to fellowship with God, the hospitality model genuinely portrays faith without works. The host’s sole act is opening his or her home widely and warmly to the Christ who stands at the door and knocks. Repentance occurs in the resultant reordering of one’s household to receive, understand, prize, and share the gifts offered by the messenger.
It is in the form of a sojourning stranger totally dependent upon the generosity of those inside the house on which he calls, that Christ stands at the door and knocks (cf. Rev. 3:20). Those who receive him hospitably are promised unimaginable hospitality in return (cf. John 1:12). Christ pledges to open his Father’s house to them (cf. John 14:2). He offers his own life as the guarantee that they will join him as his honored guests and friends (cf. John 15:15). As hospitality scholar Christine Pohl notes, John Chrysostom preached to the early church that while we offer Christ meager hospitality, he offers us lavish, infinite hospitality in return:
We receive Jesus into our homes, but he receives us into the kingdom of his Father; in responding to a hungry person, we take away Jesus’ hunger, but he takes away our sins; we see him a stranger and he makes us citizens of heaven; we give him bread, but he gives us an entire kingdom to inherit and possess…
In Chrysostom’s quote, we catch a glimpse of the “guises” in which Christ comes:
- In Hebrews 13:2, we learn that Christ often comes in the form of a stranger, so how we receive strangers is how we receive Christ: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
- Last month we studied the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. In that parable we learned that Christ comes in the form of the brother without food, drink, clothing, shelter, health, or freedom. So how we receive these in the flesh is how we receive Christ in the spirit.
- In Acts 9:1-4, we read the story of the Apostle Paul, who was first Saul the persecutor of Christians:
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
In 1 Corinthians 12:27, we learn that when a person receives Christ, they become a part of his body. So when Saul is persecuting Christians, Jesus doesn’t say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Christians?” He says, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Sum it up and say: Receiving Christ happens first in the body and subsequently, as a result, in the spirit. We receive Christ by receiving his messengers, strangers, and the least of his brothers in the flesh.
Have you received Christ in the body, not only in the spirit?