After attending an Easter Sunrise Service at a neighboring congregation, I have a confession that I hope will propel you to extend hospitality to those who appreciate a different style of Christian worship than you do.
Let me explain.
Shortly after the early morning service began, I became disappointed with their choice of songs – no traditional Easter hymns! I thought the service itself was a little too long for a chilly Colorado morning – the metal bench I was sitting on was cold! I was also distracted by a few people who were sitting close to me. One man was reading the Easter story out of a version of the Bible that I don’t care for at all. A few other people had Charismatic episodes of hand raising and body swaying. And yet another lady was decked out in a Christian bikers outfit with the Jesus headband and full leather outfit. I have to admit that I quietly began judging the church itself and many of the attendees that I just mentioned.
It wasn’t long though before I began to inwardly cringe. I realized that I had become one of the “old fogies” that I had despised in the church of my youth. You know . . . the older folks who always sat in the same pew, sang the same music, accepted only their version of the Bible as holy, and demanded that you light the altar candles like so. I remember their frowning faces of disapproval And now . . . I was frowning just like them!
And the truth was, I didn’t know much of anything about the church or the people that I was judging. I chose to get upset over the way that people expressed their love for a savior that had sacrificed his life for them instead of appreciating the “godly diversity” that was represented at that service.
I’m grateful that the Lord stopped me in my tracks before this had a chance to fester, but through this experience I recognized a tendency in myself to judge first and show hospitality later (maybe).
One of the lessons that we learned this month was that Christ showed hospitality to those who didn’t share his values. He showed hospitality to strangers–to his enemies. The folks at the sunrise service were certainly not my enemies, but they were a little different than I was. They dressed a little differently and they worshipped a little differently than I do.
By immediately judging and caricaturizing them, I refused the Holy Spirit’s work of hospitality in my life and theirs. According to the Scriptures, hospitality has to do with the receiving and loving of strangers . . . but unfortunately I was too busy judging them to receive them or love them.
In all fairness, the Lord does give us discernment and the ability to exercise judgment. I’m not making a blanket statement that we should never judge, only that my judgments were premature–and wrong!
If I had been properly prepared to show a love of strangers on Easter morning, I might have come to a conclusion closer to the one non-charismatic David Watson did after he visited a charismatic church. He said,
Let’s face it: we often caricature Christian groups who don’t think, worship, or experience God like we do. This is a huge mistake. It’s time to stop caricaturing and start listening and learning. Should we turn off our critical faculties? Of course not. Should we listen for God’s working in new and powerful ways that will challenge and stretch us? Absolutely.