Hospitality and the Privilege of Knowing (and being known)

I have found that one of life’s great privileges is getting to know another person. I never cease to be astonished and awe-struck by each and every person I meet because, for all our similarities, we are all unique. There is only one [insert your name here] in the entire world. Wow!

Meeting new people is thus a real thrill for me. As wonderful as this experience often is however, it can also be a discouragement if the other person would not like to be known, at least by me. This is why it is such a privilege to have the opportunity to get to know someone; because it takes two.

I’ve enjoyed this privilege often over the course of the past several months, and this is in large credit to those I’ve met who have invited me into their lives to some degree or another. As I seek to meet and to know new people, I also desire to be known. I want to share something of my life with the people I meet, develop friendships, and journey together in some way. At times it seems quite easy to do so, especially if I share common interests and hobbies, or values, or am in a similar life-stage with the other person. Other times it’s more difficult, like when we don’t share interests, look at life differently, or if our experiences in life have been contrastingly different. It can also be tough when there are certain power dynamics in play. As a white male, I’ve become increasingly aware of how these distinctions make it difficult for others to share something of themselves with me.

Even still, as a follower of Jesus it’s a wonderful thing when “dividing walls” are broken down. Over the course of the summer months I have enjoyed many budding friendships with people associated with The Dale. One such friendship has sprouted up with a man who is a visible minority here in Toronto. He’s suffered through homelessness and has a history of being hurt by the Church. In any context, this can certainly present obstacles to potential friendship between us. But, to his credit, a way has been made possible for us to cultivate a new friendship. A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of hosting him for dinner at our place. I was so thankful that he felt comfortable coming to our home for a meal. It’s no small thing to show (or be shown) hospitality, and more specifically, fellowship around the dinner table is something I have enjoyed many times over (albeit usually as a guest!) There’s something very special about sharing a meal together. Perhaps Jesus was on to something when he introduced the “Lord’s Supper”¬†around the table.

Unity and harmony are two values I think many of us want to see and experience in our lives. I don’t know too many people who truly enjoy being at odds with others, even when it might seem like they do. This is why I think hospitality is so key for us to share with one another. Times around the table are precious, be it with your family, with friends, and even with strangers. As Christians we’re called to embody such a radical hospitality – one that invites anyone and everyone to our table while extending ourselves to accept the hospitality from another in kind. That’s what true friendship and fellowship is all about. That’s how we know and become known, and it’s how we live intentionally towards unity and harmony.

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