Summer Book Reading
Jesus loves sinners. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He sought out the lost sheep of Israel. He offered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) water that would well up to eternal life. Salvation wasn’t simply something he had, but something he frequently offered to those who needed it. For many of us, the greatest challenge to sharing the gospel might be having a relationship with an unbeliever where we are able to share it. This is where Rosaria Butterfield’s new book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” might be very helpful.
The book gently weaves in and out of assorted genres, interchanging between biblical teachings and narrative of key moments in her life, with something of a how-to book feel. Butterfield’s key phrase is “Radical Ordinary Hospitality.” For her family, welcoming others into their home with the hopes of developing a genuine relationship and sharing Christ is a part and parcel of their regular experience. “Radical Ordinary Hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God.” (31) Hospitality is a tool for love and evangelism.
We live in the connected age. Yet for all of the promise and value of social media, loneliness and isolation are on the rise. Our culture continues to be fractured by people who talk past each other as if they are speaking a different language. And increasingly, it is common for unbelievers to have no Christian in their life through whom the light of the gospel shines, just as easy as it is for Christians to have no deep relationship with an unbeliever.
Butterfield is especially adept at carefully drawing out some of the blind spots we have in Bible-believing Christian communities. Too often we are known by our words rather than our actions. “Having strong words and a weak relationship with our neighbors is violence.” (35) Further on she notes how “in post Christian communities, your words can only be as strong as your relationships.” (40) Reading her book made me think of a friend I had from long ago who struggled with Christianity but kept stumbling over his atheist convictions because of the change He saw Christ work in me in the context of our relationship. The first step for us to fulfill the Great Commission involves developing relationships with people who need to hear the gospel.
Butterfield was a lesbian Professor of English before Christ saved her. This experience leads her to exhort us to do a better job of reaching out to people who are not like us as a couple reached out to her. “Christians love to fellowship with like-minded people. Strangers can be another story.” (90) It’s easy to stumble, because the longer we are in Christ, the more we wonder how to really connect with someone who is vocally not. Here again, Butterfield helps us through some of our minefields: “If my unbelieving neighbors who identify as lesbians are in sin, then why are they the nicest people on the block? If our Christian worldview cannot account for that, it can only survive in the echo chamber of our imaginary theology.” By rediscovering the fact that all of us on this planet are made in the image of God, and recalling Christ’s love for the stranger, Butterfield helps lead us back to how we may reach them with Christ’s love and grace.
Don’t read the book trying to be exactly like her. Please. Rosaria is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother who also holds a Ph.D in English and writes books. She’s a Sabbatarian who believes we should only sing from the Psalter. She freely shares how she practices hospitality in the book but she does not say we must model our specific practice after her, nor should we. We are all called to be stewards of the homes, resources, relationships, and callings God has placed in our life in assorted seasons. I found her specific application of hospitality to be personally impossible for many families who embrace the vision of hospitality, including mine. Please don’t let guilt or legalism step in. For most of us, having one person over a month would be a wonderful place to begin. That said, the book’s overall point is something we can all embrace. It is convicting, for our good, God’s glory, and the good of our neighbors. God has saved us through the work of Christ, provided us homes, and called us to reach the world for Him.
Hospitality is a spiritual gift in the Bible. For some, it will be easier than others. For some, it will be easier to do more frequently than others. But encouragement is also a spiritual gift, and something we are called to practice. So too, with hospitality. One of the best ways to show someone you care about them is to invite them into your home and share your life with them, even if it’s just for an evening.
ARE YOU READY FOR
What if every family from our church committed to invite one unbeliever over for a meal this summer? Imagine that! Imagine if over 300 unbelievers this summer were invited into the home of a Christian from Grace to share a meal, share their life, and develop a relationship, through which the gospel might shine and be shared. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Who knows how the Lord might use such radical ordinary hospitality for His glory!!??
We will have copies of the book available in the coming days and will be talking about hospitality more as the sun keeps rising and the grills come out.