The importance of community, charity, and hospitality are not lost on the general public. Most all humans everywhere, and in all cultures, recognize the importance of this tripartite code of ethic. Two forms of government–specifically–sought out an atheistic humanist model of these things in Socialism and Communism. Both have shown over history to have failed miserably. Most political pundits don’t see much hope for success with these ideologies, even with the rise of so-called, “democratic socialism”. In societies such as the traveling caravans of the ancient near east, and todays desert dwelling peoples, hospitality was/is a necessity. When someone is wandering around in the chaotic wilderness, you are looked down upon and shunned if you do not assist them; with food or water, lodging or materials. It is your duty to care for them. In part this is because they are a human being and somewhere deep down it is ingrained in our psyche. Why is this there? Many try to come up with a reason. Today it is customary to look towards the status of the “human animal’s” evolutionary ability to survive. Though it is a pragmatic cop out, it doesn’t explain why or how it is a deep need to help the downtrodden. There is an intrinsic quality of the human species to care for their fellow man. That evolutionary worldview doesn’t have any intrinsic quality in the human species. The one worldview that does attest this attribute of mankind is a Theistic one or in other words, one where God acts. And the only Theistic worldview that has any consistent defense of community, charity, and hospitality is a Christian one. I don’t want to imply that other Theistic worldviews don’t have a defense for it–Muslims, Arabs traders, and many indigenous tribal people evidence this worldview–but most of these cultures’ defenses consist mostly with verbal tradition and are incapable of sufficient documentation that has great authority. The Christian defense consists in two primary ideas.
- The Imago Dei–the image of God
- The love of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer.
The Imago Dei
In scripture God ends his creative acts with the culmination of his creation, human beings, Gen 1:27–31. Mankind is unique, in that they have a unique burden no other created thing has. To image God amongst the rest of creation. We are to care for creation, in a similar way God does. Being an imager of God, as some theologians have posited, is a function of being human. It’s why failure to care for the land(a thing completely incognizant of it’s own reality), is a sin the same way you are not to treat a rich man better than a poor man. In fact, one specific reason God gives to Israel as to why he is casting them out from the land is precisely because they did not obey him in giving the land its sabbaths. They did not give the land rest, they failed living up to their function as image bearers(this is not the only reason, there are many parts to the entire equation i.e. sin, fall, redemption. I am zeroing in on one particular aspect). He also gave them a law not to cut down any trees that gave food for them during a siege, Deut 20:19–20. Jesus even brings this idea out when he speaks of God “clothing the lilies of the field”, Luke 12:27.
He says even Solomon was not clothed as they were, and Solomon is the wisest king in Israel’s history. God cares for his creation, his imagers are to as well. It is part of what being an image bearer is about. When we fail–which is often–we further separate ourselves from communion with God. Our biggest responsibility regarding this imaging function is towards, logically so, fellow imagers. Jesus brings this up directly when he says God sends his rain on the just and unjust, Matt 5:45. The parable of the good Samaritan touches this theme as well. A man asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responds with a parable and a question. The parable is the good Samaritan, and the question is, “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers hands?”, Luke 10:29–37 (NASB). In a particular way, God loves those who hate him. In this Jesus declares, if you are to be called sons of God you must love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, Matt 5:44. This also brings out crucial implications towards evangelism. Peter has illusions to this idea when he writes,
“…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:… Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul. Keep your behavior excellent amoung the gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Pet 2:9b, 11-12
It is the gospel, salvation that is the “slander” the unbeliever calls a child of God out on. This is one of Jesus’s points when he says,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt 5:9
And this flows directly into the next point…
The love of Christ
It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within each believer that compels us towards charity, hospitality, and community. The church is in reality the outworking of this eschatological thing the Lord has done. I want to look at four passages in particular to flesh this out a bit and state my case.
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’.” Matt 25:40
The word I want to key in on here is, “brothers”. The context is the Son of Man coming in his glory, separating the sheep and the goats. The sheep helped those that were identified with Jesus. These ‘sheep’ fed, clothed, gave lodging to, and visited a sick and incarcerated Jesus. The people ask him, when did we do these things to you? He then answers with Matt 25:40. They are brothers of Jesus because they are identified as sons of God. They’ve been adopted into God’s family, and with God as their Father and Jesus as their brother, the familial relationship compels them to act without so much as a hint of reward.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”,… “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”,… “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 13:34–35, 14:23, 26, 15:8–11
The Holy Spirit’s role in the believer has many glorious truths. The two I want to focus on in these texts are this: he reminds the believer of all Jesus commands/teaches/says, and he brings us to love each other. This is a foundational text to the validity and authority of the apostles teaching and the NT itself, and goes beyond mere verbal tradition as those other worldviews.
*brief aside* This is a great study and I highly suggest every Christian do it on their own time, but that is not for right now.
Just take away from this point that the Spirit of God, which resides in every believer, will bring to fruition the familial love of God towards other believers. This is one way people will know that we are Christ’s disciples and therefore children of God. This is to give us Christ’s joy! Please don’t ask, “How do I get Jesus’s Joy?” The answer is to love other Christians! There are many specific ways to have this joy, but the one way in particular Jesus cites, is via the indwelling of himself(thorough the Holy Spirit) effecting our being towards love for other believers.
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:41–47
This passage is the uncoerced affection of my last point. Many have wrongly used this passage(myself included) to promote the political and communal idea of, “christian communism.” Though, one may be sympathetic towards it, the only communism or socialism that would work is in a sinless society, this side of Christ’s return and the eternal state there is no “sinless society.” Even Christians keen on attempting this kind of idealism may be well intentioned, Christianity’s governmental structure is inherently Theocratic. No amount of “redeeming society” will bring about Christ’s return and inaugurate heaven on earth. But, our local churches, and by extension local churches in concert amongst their communities should evidence this same charity. It is part of our witness to the rest of the world. The function of Christians loving each other is quite arguably a means God(via the regenerating power of the Spirit) uses to bring non believers into Faith in Christ. People gravitate towards this unashamed love and grow to desire it or they, as 1 Peter says, “slander” us. This is a big reason why them hippies are so hard to get rid of.
It’s a great idea, but without the one who gives life, the one from whom all blessings flow, the one whom it is said that, “God is love”, every system will fall short and collapse in on itself. Even when a community starts with the Christocentric view, the moment it loses sight of that foundation, it is shattered like a stone in a glass house. That is why christian churches stop looking Christian and start looking like clubs or social groups.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Heb 10:23–25
In sermons this verse is pulled when church attendance is down. It’s use is to guilt(not always with ill intentions) the congregation to come every Sunday. Though, going to the weekly worship service is well attested in scripture, this passage is speaking much more broadly(in my judgement). The phrase, “consider how to stimulate one another” is very important. The most important phrase in my opinion. How are Christians to stimulate the action of love and good deeds? By not forsaking getting together with fellow believers. This could be a small group Bible study, Sunday worship service, or a simple cup of coffee and conversation. There are many more examples, but I hope you get the picture. If we, as disciples of Christ, are to spread the gospel and be light to the rest of the world, a world that loves darkness rather than light, John 3:19, we must be devoted to loving that which Christ loves, his bride; the Church. And it has to be more than just on Sunday, it has to everywhere, every time of day, every situation, and with everyone… especially Christians.