How might God be calling you to love your neighbor? Discover the power of hospitality as Jonathan Youssef and special guest Rosaria Butterfield discuss the impact relationship-building can have in drawing souls to Christ.
This interview is condensed and excerpted from episode 51 of Candid Conversations. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online.
"We're not called to give our leftovers; we're called to give our lives."
Jonathan: Now obviously your pastor and his wife had a tremendous impact on you through the 500 meals, the hospitality. But what was it that drove you to model that out?
Rosaria: As we are living in more of a post-Christian world, I am seeing Christians hesitate or be fearful of people who are different, not wanting to connect on the grounds that ‘these sinners are going to contaminate us.' And one of the things that I learned from being on the receiving end of Christian hospitality was that it's very helpful when your words are not stronger than your relationships.
As Christians feel squeezed out of public conversations, my question was Why do you not feel you can still build relationships? These are not relationships based on deception; these are relationships based on lost dogs and kids who need to be picked up at the bus stop and screen doors that need to be fixed. They are relationships based on real life. And when we have lived together in that way, we earn the right to speak into each other's lives.
My husband and I were both raised in unbelieving households. Until our youngest children came to faith, we were the only believers in our extended families. We know what it's like to be lonely. We know what it's like to be mocked. If you [truly live like the family of God], you're stepping into the loneliness that other people have. But you're also able to provide a powerful Christian witness.
Jonathan: I think I'm about to make a confession, but when I think of hospitality, I sadly think of having people over whom I think I will get along with or have things in common with. How do we alter that perception?
Rosaria: There is nothing wrong with that. I would just presume that you're going to have something in common with every image-bearer of the holy God and that a great place of commonality is the way that people's needs provide an opportunity for Gospel grace.
But I think it's a matter of adjusting our expectations, and this is something that our post-COVID world has very much helped us with. Too often in the church—especially we who are privileged to have good jobs, good health, a stable family, or Christian parents—we tend to think we are entitled to all this grace and glory and that other people are blessed by merely sharing our leftovers. But if we really look in the mirror of Scripture, we realize we're not called to give our leftovers; we're called to give our lives.
Now, I'm busy, you're busy, and I'm presuming God knows that—so He's probably going to present us with people who [need] to hear the Gospel. I pray to that end. As I walk in the neighborhood, I pray that the Lord would prepare the hearts of my neighbors to hear the Gospel. Too often, I think Christians like to ask the Holy Spirit to do their work: "Dear Lord, please just convert these people." Well, wait a second! We are called to share the Gospel—and what a holy calling this is. What an amazing thing that God trusts us with this.
Jonathan: It requires an understanding that there is a plan and a purpose for where you have been placed. I think sometimes we look around our neighborhoods and think, "I wish I lived in a different neighborhood where everyone was nice and kind, and probably Christian, and we all went to the same church." But often He doesn't do that. He doesn't put us there. He often puts us in the really difficult places, and I think it requires an attitude of understanding that He's trying to work out His purposes through you.
Rosaria: Absolutely. God never gets the address wrong. He never gets affliction wrong, also. Psalm 119 reminds us that it is in faithfulness that the Lord gives us our afflictions. So right now, we are in the middle of a pandemic. God is literally roaring into six out of seven continents, and He has a purpose for this that we ought not miss. And His purpose is connected to His character, which means that His purpose is good and holy and righteous all the time.
And so, as Christians, we are called to love our neighbor with courage. That may mean that you keep a mask on, but it does not mean that you hide in the corner. There has not been a time during this crisis where we have not had more to do—more people to feed, more people to care for.
This is not a time for Christians to be wringing their hands. This is a time for Christians to be the last people to be in crisis—even if we get sick and even if we die. The Gospel calls for nothing less.
But this is not works-righteousness. This is bathed in prayer. I believe in a strong church culture. Hospitality is a church effort. [We] are simply an outpost. And so you want to pray about this. Serve your neighbors, meet them where they are, and find out where they hurt. Share the Gospel in relationship; share it in everyday moments; share it day after day. These are long Gospel conversations.
FOUR PRACTICAL WAYS TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
Are you looking for practical ways to be a light for Christ in your neighborhood? Whether in person or at a distance, find intentional ways to show the love of Jesus—and trust God with the rest.