08 Feb Is the Gospel Flowing out of Me?
I’ve spent time in a handful of countries, and it’s striking to me that, no matter where I am, interactions with people revolve around food. It doesn’t seem to matter how much or little a person has; when they want to demonstrate how welcome you are, they feed you.
Depending on where you are, this can feel a little risky. I have clear memories of sitting in front of a day-old basket of chicken intestines praying my hostess wouldn’t offer me a plateful. Foods that are comforting and delicious to one people group can easily feel foreign and unsavory to another. I have often had to talk myself into eating the food in front of me, knowing that by feeding me a meal, my hosts were offering me a part of themselves. They were revealing to me what they valued and enjoyed with the genuine desire to bring me into relationship with them. For me to reject the meal is to reject their hospitality and care for me; I’m holding myself more highly than them. I’m implying that I can provide for myself in a way that is more satisfying.
How often do I find myself reacting to God in this same way? He has graciously prepared a table before me, and I am bold enough to turn up my nose at the meal he has set out. I carelessly stiff-arm the God of the universe, implying that I can find more satisfaction by going at it alone. I foolishly live like I’m in control, pursuing my own agenda and setting my hope on the temporary.
“I carelessly stiff-arm the God of the universe, implying that I can find more satisfaction by going at it alone.”
Yet, how can I offer myself to others when I’m content to reject the hospitality of my Creator? Justice, hospitality, and proclamation must flow from the One who is the source. His very character defines these ideas. And the story of His creation declares it.
In Psalm 73, the psalmist finds himself in this very position. He is overwhelmed by the injustice he sees in the world. Everywhere he looks, the wicked are prospering at the expense of the weak. The powerful don’t acknowledge God, but yet continue to live in comfort and ease. By verse 13, the psalmist is declaring, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my [emphasis added] hands in innocence (ESV).” As he mourns the injustice of this world, his eyes are stubbornly fixed on himself and on his own righteousness, and it’s causing him anxiety and despair.
It is only when the psalmist shifts his eyes to God that he can begin to find any hope. (16-17) Our souls are too weak and fragile to bear the true weight of justice. Our own righteousness is flimsy apart from Christ’s hospitality towards us. Our pursuit of justice or attempts at hospitality on our own will only lead to bitterness, anxiety, and despair. We simply cannot do it.
“How can I offer myself to others when I’m content to reject the hospitality of my Creator? Justice, hospitality, and proclamation must flow from the One who is the source.”
It is only when I recognize that “… for me it is good to be near God …” and “[make] the Lord God my refuge …” (28) that I’m in a position to be God’s ambassador to those around me. Until I sit down at His table and accept His hospitality to me, I have nothing to offer. My outward life must overflow from a heart that is being satisfied by Christ.
But, I can’t do the opposite either—I can’t fill myself up spiritually without allowing it to flow out towards others. The psalmist concludes that he rejoices and rests in God so “… that I may tell of all your works.” (28) The gospel has come for us in order to move out from us. We must be ready and willing to speak of God’s work in our lives whenever we have the opportunity.
“Until I sit down at His table and accept His hospitality to me, I have nothing to offer. My outward life must overflow from a heart that is being satisfied by Christ.”
We cannot reconcile the injustice and suffering of this world on our own. The disparities of this life don’t make sense apart from a God who is both just and merciful. And we cannot be agents of justice and hospitality in our world without also speaking the truth. Our good works towards others are a pitiful substitute for the eternal truth of who God is. We have to live our lives so that people ask us for “… the reason for the hope that [we] have” (NIV), and we must be prepared to give an answer.
Jesus is making all things new. And His church is continually reminding a broken and unjust world of this reality through lives that are filled with justice, hospitality, and proclamation.
Megan is spending her 20’s doing as much travel as her job at Grace Church will allow. She is incapable of letting a day go by without a physical challenge, is terrified of being stuck in an airport without a good book, and holds a particular bitterness towards hikes that don’t lead to waterfalls. Megan attends our Downtown campus.