Pondering Hospitality, Revisited

August 31, 2006

Recently, the folks in my house (all 8 of us) have been discussing whether to extend full hospitality to a homeless man we’ve been getting to know. The thing that has made the discussion a bit longer than it otherwise would have been is the presence of a 5 year old girl and a 4 month old boy in our house.

We’ve decided to extend hospitality to this man (he needs a place to stay for 10 days until he is able to move into a treatment facility). We let him know yesterday, but he is thinking about it. It must be a little scary and akward to move into a house full of people, even if just for 10 days, after being on the streets for so long.

If he decides to take us up on our offer, we’ll have another decision to make as a group: should we extend longer-term hospitality after he gets out of treatment? These sorts of decisions are the sorts of decision we knew we’d eventually have to make at Missio Dei, and it is good to think through the issues now, since we’ll be faced with many more such decisions in the future, especially as we (hopefully) grow in our capacity to offer hospitality when we find a place on the West Bank for the Missio House.

We’ve been thinking through what sort of boundaries or expectations to place on someone like our friend. We wish we didn’t have to set any boundaries, but for our safety (and also for his), it is a necessity. We’ve got some figured out, but we’re open to advice from others.

Here are some questions for you, my readers:

When are some times that you’ve extended hospitality to the stranger? Do you have any stories/lessons to share?

What sort of guidelines would you set if you were going to have someone unfamiliar to you stay in your home for a while?

Is there any way of reading Matthew 25:31-46 that makes it ok NOT to extend hospitality? Especially to someone who professes Christ?

More thoughts on women’s roles in the church

August 30, 2006

Instead of continuing the discussion that begun in the comments section of my previous post on the role of women in leadership, I’ve decided to add a new post.

I’m not at all convinced that Scripture prohibits the exercising of leadership or teaching of men by women. It isn’t so much that I’m utterly convinced that Scripture teaches an egalitarian position. It is more that I am not convinced of the complentarian position. Given this reality, I would rather err on the side of grace and liberty. And truth be told, I am very much an egalitarian at heart. And since I don’t feel as though it is against Scripture or my convictions to be an egalitarian, I am gladly running with it.

Nevertheless, I would like to engage in a bit of exegesis. I am not a bible scholar–far from it–but allow me to tackle one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament for egalitarian positions. In fact, most passages seem easily enough for the egalitarian crowd to address, with one exception: 1 Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Here’s my read on this passage. The “submissiveness” here doesn’t seem to be “submissiveness” to men, but submissiveness to God or to the assembly. Being unsubmissive, then, doesn’t mean that they had the audacity to lead men or the audacity to speak up. Being unsubmissive means that they were not yielding appropriately to Christ and/or the assembly.

Paul cannot mean that women cannot teach in a broad sense–it must be a very specific sense of teaching (since there are examples in Scripture of women teaching in different senses. I agree that there are cases when women cannot teach. I simply don’t think there is a universal principle here. I also don’t think that women, by default, should be kept from leadership or teaching roles. But the key to understanding this particular situation is that Paul contrasts “teaching and having authority over men” with remaining quiet. Clearly, women are not always to remain silent, since elsewhere in the Pauline canon Paul instructs women in the proper way of prophesying and whatnot.

So, then, this is a particular case when women are to be quiet, rather than in teaching or exercising authority. Why is it that we make this a universal teaching, when it is clearly a particular instance in which we cannot see all the issues readily within the text?

You might say “Mark, you cannot so easily dismiss the complementarian reading of this text, for this teaching is rooted in the creation order!” Fair enough. And it is this reality that renders this the most problematic passage to the egalitarian. However, this passage only makes the point that women should be submissive…and since the earlier use of this word doesn’t seem to refer to male-female relations, then this doesn’t seem to argue for a gender hierarchy, but for women to be submissive.

This is hardly an original thought, but given all of this, I cannot help but think that the situation of that ancient congregation involved a group of women acting in a way that was not appropriate. I do not think that the inappropriate situation was that women were merely teaching men and acting in an eldering capacity. The situation was that unsubmissive women (in my earlier sense of the word) were teaching and having authority. Instead, they should learn from their mother Eve, who was deceived. The implication is that these particular women are being deceived. This seems like a valid interpretation. After all, in 2 Cor 11:3 Paul uses Eve as an example of anyone who is deceived.

The reason this passage is interpreted the way it is by complementarians is that they seem to assume that what Paul means by “submissive” is “submissive to men” and that the reference to Adam and Eve is meant to demonstrate a universal status for men and women. Instead, I think that submission is meant in a broader sense and that the reference to Adam and Eve is an admonition to eschew deception. These particular women are being inappropriate in their manner of teaching and having authority and as a result, Paul instructs the women to be quiet.

The Folly of Pacifism in a Broken World

August 28, 2006

From today’s Sojourner’s email zine:

In the months after 9/11, Jim Wallis challenged peace advocates to address the threat of terrorism. “If nonviolence is to have any credibility,” he wrote, “it must answer the questions violence purports to answer, but in a better way.” Gandhian principles of nonviolence provide a solid foundation for crafting an effective strategy against terrorism. Nonviolence is fundamentally a means of achieving justice and combating oppression. Gandhi demonstrated its effectiveness in resisting racial injustice in South Africa and winning independence for India. People-power movements have since spread throughout the world, helping to bring down communism in Eastern Europe and advancing democracy in Serbia, Ukraine, and beyond. The same principles - fighting injustice while avoiding harm - can be applied in the struggle against violent extremism.

This highlights one of my main concerns about Wallis’ brand of neo-anabaptism in particular, and the religious left in general: it subjegates the cruciform life to utilitarian concerns. This paragraph is laden with utilitarianism. I don’t think pacifism makes sense as a practical strategy. It cannot stand against Hauwerwas’ critique of the right and left–that they make Christ subordinate to political goals. The profundity of the Cross, and the way of the Cross that Christian pacifists follow, isn’t in its brilliant effectiveness. The profundity of the Cross is that it is God’s way of confronting violence and evil. The pacifist resists violence, not because it is effective, but because in embracing the brokenness of the world with love, we refuse to return evil for evil. Christian pacifism isn’t interested in the ends, but in the eschaton: where the slaughtered Lamb is revealed to the world and all are swept into his glory.

This makes Christian pacifism an act of faithful folly, where we nonsensically embrace the evil done to us and repay it with good, just as our Lord has done.

Do you need a "Y" chromosome to be a "pastor": Reflections of an XY…

August 25, 2006

My friend Surly Dave is pondering the role of women in the Church. Dave is clearly a complimentarian. At the same time, Jason Clark (whose blog I read semi-regularly) has posted on the role of women as well. Jason is clearly an egalitarian. I tend to avoid discussions about the role of women, because they can get heated. The arguments get tedious and very few minds are ever changed on the matter. I, however, am one of the few who have changed my perspective.

Read more

Bringing Peace and Love in a Broken World

August 22, 2006

In “Who Would Jesus Bomb” I wrote the following:

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. If we love pacifist Jesus, we can?t simply extricate ourselves from the evil machine by agreeing that the machine is evil. Nor can we be Christians simply by agreeing with a certain set of ideas. If we want to identify with this Man who stands against evil (even as he absorbs the evil in his death) we must give ourselves to Him and his cause. We need to take up the cross. We can?t simply avoid evil and injustice and unrighteousness, we must become peacemakers and lovebringers.

How do we do that? Please comment with your ideas. I?ll come up with some ideas of my own for the next post.

My mind has been preoccupied with such ethical concerns for quite some time. Truth be told, it is difficult to know how to actually bring peace instead of merely eschewing violence. It is difficult to bring love instead of merely standing against evil and hate and injustice. And the sort of peacemaking and lovebringing I see attempted is often pretty weak. Worldly peace is the absence of conflict. Religious conservatives tend to see that peace can come through the wise use of violence. Religous liberals tend to think that peace can come through talk. But peace isn’t the absence of violence or conflict, it is wholeness and fullness…completeness. Jesus shows us that peace comes from God. Jesus brough peace by lovingly laying down his life. He didn’t seek to end strife. He didn’t establish a utopian village far away from violence. His peace was through being radically present, reflecting God’s presence, in the midst of injustice, hate, and wickedness. If we are to truly defeat injustice and evil, we need to lovingly enter into injustice.


I don’t think we’ll be able to bring peace into dark places unless we find those dark places and are willing to die in those dark places. We must embrace white martyrdom (giving up one’s life to live the simple life of the Gospel). Chris Erdman (whose posts are pretty good lately) writes:

It is that martyrdom we must pursue today. We must form an alternative Christian witness against so much that popularly passes for Christianity. We must intentionally work to raise martyrs-not folks who are preoccupied with dying, but folk who are so preoccupied with life that death no longer holds power over them. If and when that happens, we just might see a church on the earth.

Here are some of the ways to live out this sort of martyrdom:

  • We need to find the places where injustice and brokeness are most apparent and move in. We must relocate to the “abandon places” of the Empire (places where numbers of folks have fallen through the cracks).
  • We must lovingly confront those who do evil, seeking to transform them with the love of Christ.
  • We must practice civil disobedience when we see an injustice.
  • We must commit ourselves to prayer.
  • We must commit to speaking the truth and being transparent.
  • We must practice radical hospitality and receive the poor, the broken, and the victim into our homes. We mustn’t “outsource” hospitality, but share our lives with those in most need of wholeness.
  • We must live simply, pooling resources to bring healing to broken people and systems, rather than using those resources for luxury.

What else can we do to live out a new white martyrdom in America?

Amen & Amen.

August 22, 2006

From Chris Erdman:

Resolved . . . to live in such a way that my life makes no sense apart from the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

I got tagged

August 14, 2006

Brandon tagged me, so here goes:

1. One book that changed your life:
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas

2. One book you’ve read more than once:
A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Christian Community in History, Volume 1-2 by Roger Haight
4. One book that made you laugh:
The Princes Bride by William Goldman

5. One book that made you cry:
Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card

6. One book you wish had been written:
The Art of Pacifism by Adolf Hitler

7. One book you wish had never been written:
Your Best Life Now by Joel Olsteen

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Peacework by Henri Nouwen

8. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky

10. Now tag 5 people:
Chris Brenna, Jan Bros, Surly Dave, Kevin Rains, Joseph Dworak

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

August 10, 2006

cover-small.jpgThe Pulse, a local Twin Cities rag has a pretty interesting triad of articles, held together under the theme: Who Would Jesus Bomb? The articles, We are Babylon, Jesus in his time and ours, and Radical pacifists face prison and fines for action at missile silos. The articles raise some interesting points, though I don’t agree with all of them. Basically, they make the point that Jesus was a man of peace for the marginalized and we should be too. They don’t go very much in depth, and what depths they plumb aren’t the ones that I would plumb. The thing I find most fascinating is that the Pulse would devote a cover and three articles to the subject. While the articles certainly rip on fundamentalists (which isn’t surprising) they tend to elevate Jesus quite a bit (except the second article, perhaps).

Is this a sign that folks are interested in Jesus but have rejected the Jesus of the fundamentalists? Some would see this sort of “coverage” for Jesus as a good thing–that people really DO love Jesus, and if only the Church would get out of the way, people would flock to him. Such a viewpoint seems gnostic to me. Can we really offer Jesus without his Body? The Church may suck, but what, pray tell, is the alternative?

Others may see such “coverage” as a bad thing–that the Church is caving to popular movements and in-so-doing, they have given up the gospel. Most of the folks that say that sort of stuff are American Evangelical Calvinists for some reason. Probably because their definition of Gospel is uber-articulated. The trouble is, the penal substitutionary view of the Gospel, along with a strong reformed understanding of justification are relatively recent innovations. They gain acsendancy in Europe after the Reformation largely because they fit the cultural mentality so well–the POPULAR mentality. People liked views of salvation that didn’t feel Catholicish and tended to think of things in legal/transactional terms. Today, people like the idea that Jesus is a man of love who purchased salvation by suffering at the hands of evil men. The Pacifist Jesus who took on the sins of humanity (rather than the wrath of God) has a much longer tradition. Anabaptists didn’t invent Pacifist Jesus–he’s been there from the begining. So, while it certainly could be the case that people are watering down the Gospel when they present Jesus as a pacifist, it isn’t necessarily the case.

My own opinion is that people really DO love Jesus and feel like the Church gets in the way…but they most likely love Jesus like they love Dr. King. My suspicion is that these articles show that the people like the Jesus who shows us how to love one another, but probably aren’t interested in worshiping him. My cynical side would probably say that articles like this give people a sort of guilt-release–by simply reading and agreeing with the articles, they identify themselves with the marginalized, absolving themselves from the guilt of the oppressor. It is like the white person who goes to the multi-ethnic church but never makes friends or takes a stand accross ethic boundaries. Such a person can feel absolved from their white guilt because they have taken on a new identity-through-affiliation. And so it is with many who may read this article. They read and agree…and therefore aren’t part of the evil machine. Never mind that their nylon-blend clothing, plastic ipod and ipod accessories, and hybrid car all thrive upon oil purchased with blood.

Jesus didn’t die to simply show us an ethic of love. Jesus shows us a way of love, tis true. But he is the way of love. He calls us to follow him, no doubt, but to center our lives around him. He is Yahweh to us. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. If we love pacifist Jesus, we can’t simply extricate ourselves from the evil machine by agreeing that the machine is evil. Nor can we be Christians simply by agreeing with a certain set of ideas. If we want to identify with this Man who stands against evil (even as he absorbs the evil in his death) we must give ourselves to Him and his cause. We need to take up the cross. We can’t simply avoid evil and injustice and unrighteousness, we must become peacemakers and lovebringers.

How do we do that? Please comment with your ideas. I’ll come up with some ideas of my own for the next post.

Quick Poll: Best Books to Shape Contextual Ecclesiology

August 9, 2006

I get to teach a course on applied ecclesiology again this year at Bethel Seminary. Last year I used Frost and Hirsch’s The Shaping of Things to Come, Craig Van Gelder’s The Essence of the Church, Alan Roxburgh’s The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, & Liminality, and David Fitch’s The Great Giveaway. This time around, I want to change up the readings. I’m definitely going to leave Van Gelder’s book out of the mix this year. It’s a great book but most of my students are decidedly low-church and Van Gelder’s book is more applicable to mainline folks. Any suggestions?

pondering hospitality

August 8, 2006

Homeless in NYC 10x7x6.jpgWhat do you need to know about a person before you invite them to stay in your house? Hospitality is a central, non-negotiable practice for all Christians. But how hospitable? How well do you have to know someone before you offer them a bed for the night? For a month? For longer? How do the answers to those last two questions change when there are children in the house?

The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is pretty provokative. Even if you take the most conservative interpretation–that the “least of these” are disciples of Christ–one still has to grapple with the reality that even those who come in the name of Christ can be strangers. Right now I have a homeless aquaintence who is a Christian and is coming off of treatment who needs a place to stay and help getting his life together. If I take Matthew 25 seriously, is it enough to help him find some impersonal transitional housing? Is it ok to “outsource” hospitality? There is a 6 year old and an infant in our house. Does that mean he can’t stay with us at all? Do we make him do a background check and THEN let him stay with us for a while?

Anyone want to weigh in on this stuff?