The following is the third post in a series on how to stop hate from a biblical perspective. Join The Good Book Blog and Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies Joanne Jung over the coming weeks to reflect on how Christians can work to stop hate. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” — Proverbs 10:12 ESV
In my last post, I encouraged readers to add the caption “Made in the image of God” in their minds to a thought, image of a person or the actual person. In applying the truth of one made in the image of God to those who are not like us, even potentially negative emotions can turn to hospitality. We typically understand hospitality to be having friends over for dinner, baking brownies for a meeting or welcoming people to an event. Hospitality, as God instructs, however, is far more than this. Biblical hospitality is the extension of friendship to a stranger — getting to know a friend you haven’t met yet. This someone is likely one who does not look like you, yet is made in the image of God. Applying the “Made in the image of God” thought caption has led to some positive experiences. These encounters require time and space, two precious commodities many of us are unwilling to sacrifice, but those who heed the Spirit’s promptings will benefit from his lead.
Anne doesn’t look like me. She is a cashier at the grocery store where I shop and she is a recovering alcoholic, celebrating almost 4 years of being clean and sober. Over the years we have become friends. I bring her fresh baked zucchini bread so that she can add some body weight and she, in turn, has brought me homemade tamales and navy bean soup. Recently after I paid for my groceries, she told me she was glad I came in. It had been a tough day for her. So right there in line, I leaned in toward her and prayed for her. Our relationship started with me calling her by her name and commenting about her good sense of humor.
JP doesn’t look like me either. JP was a student of mine 14 years ago. He’s a young African-American man whom God has called to co-pastor the largest African-American church in Los Angeles. We’ve done a lot of life together. He now considers me his spiritual mom and I call him my spiritual son. I offered our home for him and his family to stay when their home flooded. Soon after the news of the Atlanta murders aired, JP called me, just to ask about how I was doing and feeling.
It’s easy to avoid extending friendship to a stranger when we’re more consumed with image management than image bearing. We forget how God first extended his divine friendship to us when we were strangers (Col 1:21-23; Eph 2:12, 19). As we grow more sensitive to and dependent on God’s Spirit in extending friendship to a stranger, a measure of transformation happens in you and the “stranger.”