Compassion, Compassion in Action, Condemnation vs Discernment, II Corinthians 5:18-21, Lostness, Matthew 25, Ministry of Reconciliation, Philippians 2, Radical Hospitality, Radical posture of receptivity, Radical Solidarity, Redemptive Impulse, Seeing Christ Everywhere, Spiritually Informed Discernment, The Radical Gospel
Hospitality is a concrete expression of the love that now binds us to God and to one another… [it] illustrates the redemptive impulse deep within Christian hospitality…
Hospitality, which shares linguistic history with “hospital,” brings healing to host as well as guest because welcoming the stranger is a medium of growth toward fullness of life. In the experience of hospitality both guest and host receive something they need that can only be obtained through the unique ministration of hospitable relationships. Indeed, because hospitality demonstrates a radically transformed human posture of receptivity to God and generosity toward God’s creatures, it is a primary sign of the new creation, God’s reigning in our midst.
If it is true that Christ practiced radical hospitality while He walked among us, it remains true that He beckons His followers to practice radical hospitality through whom He lives by His Spirit.
“Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”
Drawing on Christ’s parable in Matthew 25, Rohr recognizes the significance of seeing Christ in everyone and acting with this ethic. As he said, this definition of a mature Christian will never fail you.
Rohr goes on to say:
“The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else.”
“This is the intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. Without a doubt, Jesus perfectly exemplified this seeing and thus passed it on to the rest of history. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. In fact, these “lost sheep” found out they were not lost to him at all and tended to become his best followers.”
Indeed Jesus had no trouble with otherness, and in the beautiful paradox of Jesus being full of grace and truth, He still manages to identify us as sinners, and identifies with us as sinners, while calling us to repent from sin. In II Corinthians 5:21, we read:
God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It should be noted that this is said in a section where we are to understand ourselves to be “ambassadors of reconciliation… [who are] given the ministry of reconciliation… God reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.”
Unfortunately Rohr gives the impression that Jesus doesn’t ever articulate otherness. The fact is: we are alienated from God until we are reconciled by Christ; we are lost until we find we are found by Jesus. The fact is: many remained lost in Jesus’ day, as many remain lost now.
Rohr is right to say that the lost were not lost to Him, but fails to see that we were lost from Him. In other words, God knew where the lost were all the time… the lost did not know where they were, or it might be said, we did not know we were lost; such is the nature of lostness.
Rohr is right to say that the lost who were found “tended to become His best followers” – and that is because upon the initiative of Christ Himself, they were found and then able to begin to repent from a self-referenced life alienated from God. Indeed Jesus acts with radical solidarity by His incarnation to reconcile the world to God.
Judgement and Condemnation Clarification:
In John 3 Jesus says He did not come into the world to condemn the wold – but to save people from condemnation. Thus, starting with one of the most referenced and least read verse in the bible (John 3:16), listen to the whole thought from Jesus:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Jesus did not come to condemn, partly because the world is condemned by its/our alienation from God already. We see Jesus consistently act with a radical solidarity expressed through radical hospitality, but this is not to ignore His words in Matthew 25 referenced above. Here Jesus tells us when He comes again, He will, using the metaphor of otherness, separate the goats from the sheep; He will judge then. This is reiterated in passages like Acts 17:31, and II Timothy 4:1 to name a few.
Christians are Not to Judge/Condemn
Jesus makes it very clear that His followers are not to judge/condemn in passages like Matthew 7 (and reiterated in passages like Romans 14:10, and James 4:12 to name a few). We do not have the capacity to be fully just/fair; whatever standard we use to judge others will be used to judge ourselves. This should, to use a phrase from Alastair Roberts, “excite our compassion,” not our condemnation.
Instead Jesus gives the gift of His Holy Spirit to “convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Compassion in Action
Compassion is beautifully and profoundly illustrated in Jesus encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Some legal/bible experts bring her to Jesus and ask what should be done. In a brilliant act of grace and truth, Jesus’ answer is “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Surely an answer for anyone too eager to “cast the first stone”.
When everyone eventually leaves the scene Jesus asks the woman,
“Has no one condemned you?”
“No one sir,” she replied.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
He who could’ve condemned based on being a just judge, did not condemn. We can do no less. Yet, what hangs in the air along with Jesus’ grace is the truth “go now and leave your life of sin”. The problem of sin still persists. The woman caught in adultery is free to go any way she wants, but Jesus beckons her to discontinue living a life of sin.
Where people get confused is failing to distinguish between judging/condemning, which is forbidden – and – discernment. Discernment is the kind of wise “judgement” that is necessary, for the effect of lacking discernment ranges from the foolish to the fatal.
Radical Hospitality & the Redemptive Impulse
When Rohr says, “A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, [and will] always demand more of you…” he is correct to a point – for radical solidarity demands of us “radical hospitality” energized with the redemptive impulse of the ministry of reconciliation.
It is significant that the first recorded question in the Bible is God asking Adam and Eve “where are you?” – not because God didn’t know where we were, but because we had managed to get lost in sin. Without His reconciliation – we’re still lost.
I welcome your informed opinion.