As we try to be human like Jesus, an idea that Hugh Halter puts forward in his new book Flesh, we need to study Jesus’ life, specifically the part about him dwelling among us. The Incarnation can feel like an ancient, albeit important, event, but not necessarily relevant for our daily lives. We have John 3:16 memorized. God loved us. We get it. Kind of.
We want to go to heaven, and are satisfied letting the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection reserve our spot. But, didn’t Jesus promise a life lived in Him could be lived to the fullest? In Flesh, Halter urges us to look at the Incarnation not as doctrinal theory, but as a story of passion. He says, “God longed for everything to be back the way it was, and therefore He sent His Son, Jesus, to remedy the cycle of sin so that everything could be made new... That is the why of Incarnation, and if you don’t stop to ponder why Jesus came, you will most likely miss the passion God wants to give you for living incarnationally for those around you.” That is a present tense explanation with present tense implications.
So, in our everyday lives, in our homes, how can we live out the Incarnation? We need to “do home” like Jesus, says Halter. In Eastern cultures, hospitality is a much fuller idea than here in the States. Families are larger and share space better than we do. We get uncomfortable if people linger past dessert. Instead of our home being a part of our mission toolbox, it has become a solitary fortress to shelter ourselves and our children from the outside world.
On the other hand, a public house, or a pub, is a hang out spot for people in a specific location or neighborhood. People know their neighbors, everyone knows your name. Infusing some of this pub culture into our thinking can help us open our homes and fight our tiny Western outlook on hospitality. What if our home became the center of community in our neighborhood?
What if our neighbors knew they could stop by if they needed to talk through something hard? We could help them carry their burden. What if they just got good news? We could double their joy.
When people feel accepted and cared for, they can take steps toward God. In a cultural context, when Jesus ate with people, He was showing his acceptance and friendship towards them. That’s when the heart-transforming, life-changing conversations occurred: at a home, around a table, while sharing a meal.
Although it doesn't sound very spiritual, Jesus apparently wanted us to know that ‘he came eating and drinking... and was known as a friend of tax collectors and sinners,’ Luke 7:33. We often over think the dilemma of engaging people, but to Jesus it was simply a matter of getting a conversation over the dinner table. In Eastern culture to eat with someone meant that person was respected and accepted, regardless of lifestyle choice. The table, therefore became the fertile soil where the heart could be changed. The true meaning of hospitality is "love of stranger," and for us to engage the heart, we must first engage the palate.
- Hugh Halter