Sometimes you or I come across someone who has a knack for always doing the wrong thing. They make the wrong decisions on the spot or even when they think through them. No matter what, they just seem to end up on the wrong side of the equation. Maybe it’s not in all of life, but in one specific area of life. Say, relationships. This person seems to make all the wrong decisions, so we might say to them, “do the exact opposite of what you normally do. When you feel like rushing into a commitment, slow it down. When you fall in love with someone you haven’t even met, get to know them first. Whatever you normally do, do the exact opposite.”
That’s basically what today’s passage is for our time. We, in many ways, have done the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing. In fact, we have been embracing more and more of those things that we selfishly enjoy at the expense of doing things that are for the benefit of others. Our right to do and get what we want is more important than anything else. So, we have made it a habit of doing the wrong thing, with the wrong motives. We need a dose of that medicine. “Whatever your natural inclinations are, do the exact opposite.”
When it comes to hospitality, our culture is pushing more and more into isolation. Sure, we’re technically more connected than we’ve ever been, but we have less and less time for real relationships with others. And we’re so busy pursuing our own dreams and agendas that were someone to truly need our hospitality, we wouldn’t have the bandwidth to offer it. We don’t have time to offer a cold glass of water let alone a place to sleep for a night or two.
We understand that there are believers around the world suffering for the sake of Christ, many of whom have been imprisoned for their faith. In China, Christians have to memorize whole books of the Bible as quickly as they possibly can before it gets confiscated. In prison, someone will write out a chapter or two of a book, pass it around to inmates who memorize it quickly and then pass it on until they are caught with it and punished. There are Christians who are literally being tortured, beaten, whipped, flogged, crucified and mistreated in many ways. But, we don’t particularly like to think about it. It makes us uncomfortable. So, we just do our best to keep it off our minds or get it out of our minds if someone brings it to our attention.
While there is some improvement in statistics within Christianity when it comes to marriage, there is still a large problem. The stat that half of marriages end in divorce is fake. So is the stat that says half of Christian marriages end in divorce. If I recall, it’s somewhere around 73% of Christian couples stay together. So, the truth is, Christian couples tend to stay together more than non-Christian couples. But, that doesn’t mean that divorce isn’t still a problem. Or that there isn’t rampant sexual immorality within Christian marriages.
And, we would certainly have to say that the love of money has a pretty strong foothold in the church as well. We are supposed to be free from he love of money, but money drives most of our decisions, including things such as hospitality & supporting persecuted Christians.
We have been living by the bad advice of a self-centered world, doing pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing. We have given into the me-first, self-centered, you deserve to be happy which means you deserve to have and get whatever you want – way of thinking for too long. We are well-versed in the mentality of a consumeristic culture. What’s worse is we try to bring that same consumerism into our relationship with God and the church.
But, the church cannot exist within the personal-gratification trends of society around us. The church is counter-cultural. The love we have received is completely contrary to any other so-called love we have experienced in this world. Similarly, the love within the church, the motivation in the church and the behavior within the church is also supposed to be contrary to the trends of modern society. When your faith should have started with the majestic entry of a king but instead started with a humble birth, that should be a clue that something is different. When the king of the kingdom is crucified on a cross instead of installed on an earthly throne, that should be another sign that there is something contrary about God’s kingdom.
Actually, there’s something contrary about the world. Since the rise of “Stranger Things” there has been a lot of talk about the fact that God’s kingdom is upside down from everything we know. And I get the reference, but it’s backwards. The kingdom of God isn’t upside down, we are. We’re living in the upside down. We are living in the messed up version of God’s original design. When God calls us out of the upside down, and into the right-side up Kingdom, it inherently means that we have to leave behind all that upside down thinking. The thinking that says we don’t have time, energy or money for hospitality. The thinking that says that we can do whatever we want with our sexuality, God’s grace covers it. (Maybe read 1 Cor. 5.) The thinking that says it’s my money, I earned it and I’ll decide what to do with it. All that is upside down thinking that we try to bring into the Kingdom of God. And it doesn’t work.
So, when you read a passage of scripture like Hebrews 13:1-6, and you feel the internal monologue of your rebel voice start to argue against all the standards of God’s kingdom, remind yourself what listening to your own advice has gotten you – pain, suffering and death. Then try to think differently about God’s boundaries for the Kingdom life and learn to see that God isn’t restricting us form fun, He’s protecting us from pain, suffering and death. That’s the result of the upside down kingdom, but in God’s kingdom, the results are Joy, Love and life.