Monday, May 28, 2012

[denying status boundaries]

From Richard Beck's book, unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality.
Given all this, and combined with the central place of table fellowship in Jesus’ ministry, it is not surprising that hospitality was a defining feature and virtue of the early church (cf. Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37; I Tim 3:2, 5:10; I Pet 4:9; Titus 1:8; Rom 12:13, 15:7). As Christine Pohl notes in her book Making Room, these practices continued to be a distinctive feature of Christian communities during the first centuries of the church:
Hospitality to needy strangers distinguished the early church from its surrounding environment. Noted as exceptional by Christians and non-Christians alike, offering care to strangers became one of the distinguishing marks of the authenticity of the Christian gospel and of the church. Writing from the first five centuries demonstrate the importance of hospitality in defining the church as a universal community, in denying the significance of the status boundaries and distinctions of the larger society, in recognizing the value of every person, and in providing practical care for the poor, stranger, and sick.
Given the impact of sociomoral disgust upon human affairs, it is not surprising that the act of hospitality is fundamentally an act of human recognition and embrace. If exclusion is fundamentally dehumanizing, hospitality acts to restore full human status to the marginalized and outcast. As Pohl writes:
For much of human history, Christians addressed concerns about recognition and human dignity within their discussion and practices of hospitality. Especially in relation to strangers, hospitality was the basic category for dealing with the importance of transcending social differences and breaking social boundaries that excluded certain categories or kinds of persons … Hospitality resists boundaries that endanger persons by denying their humanness.
Beck, pp. 122-123 (Pohl quotes from Making Room, pp. 33, 62, 64)
And a quote from Henri Nouwen to wrap it up:
“Hospitality means the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.”

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