J.R. Woodward – Welcoming the Other In Light of Our Hope

by Christine Sine

Today’s post comes from JR Woodward,  the co-founder of  Kairos Los Angeles, a network of churches in the LA area.  He also co-founded the Ecclesia Network – a relational network of missional churches – and the Solis Foundation – which gives grants to help start small businesses among the poorest of the poor in Lodwar, Kenya.  He’s finishing his Masters of Art in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary this year.  He compiled and contributed to the book ViralHope and is in process of finishing his next book on the five equippers, title forthcoming.  He loves to surf, watch films, engage in the art of photography, and have a glass of wine with old and new friends.  You can learn more about him here. You will find him blogging here and tweeting here.

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Welcoming the Other in Light of Our Hope
One of the practices that I am engaging in to draw near to God in the season of advent is being a person who welcomes the other into my life, in light of our ultimate hope. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

When you think of the God of Hope, what would you say is our ultimate hope as the people of God?

The ultimate hope that is described by Paul earlier in Romans and that he alludes here is the hope in the triune’s God’s ability to bring about the new creation – the redemption of our bodies and the redemption of the world. Instead of a world where creation is being polluted and destroyed because we act as though the resources we consume are infinite and the wastes we deposit are invisible, the creation, which is groaning to be release from the curse, will be released and brought back to its original beauty. Instead of a world where over 30,000 die daily of starvation or preventable diseases it would be a place of abundance for all, because there would be a new relational economy that measures success in terms of gross national affection and global community.  Instead of a place where countries send the young men and women to war, to fight others made in the image of God, and spend billions a day to secure resources so that some can live extravagantly while others go without, it will be a world where nations “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” it will be a place, as the prophet Isaiah says, where “nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  No more fighting, no more hatred.

Being People of Welcome
One picture of the future we have is that people from every tongue, tribe and nation will be living together with God at the center.  In anticipation of that hope, I seek to welcome people into my life that are different than me.  I often bring one of my international friends with me when I go back home and visit my family, so that I might grow closer to them and they might get a taste of how a typical American family celebrates Christmas.  It is sad to me how many people visiting the states don’t ever get invited into our lives.  Paul encourages us to be welcomers when he says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.”

We see this whole idea of welcoming in the Godhead, the very first community, where the spirit gives light to all people and where Christ gives his life for a world which is living in contradiction to the Father, and this giving of his life draws all those who believe in him, into the eternal kind of life.

We become welcomer’s when we remember the actions of the Father, Son and Spirit.  The open arms of the Father receiving the prodigal, the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross dying for the godless, and the spirit working in the hearts of God’s people, to accept those that at one time they had a hard time accepting.

This idea of having an inclusive community where anybody could be involved was a tough thing for the disciples to get.  In fact, it took some of them quite a long time before they ever really got it.

An old Jewish joke tells the story of Judgment Day at the end of history.  God summons all the people who have ever lived.  “Here’s what we are going to do,” he explains.  “Gabriel will read out the Ten Commandments, one by one.  As he does, those who have broken them will have to depart into everlasting darkness.”  Commandment number one is read out and a number of people are led off.  The same thing happens with each of the commandments until, having read eight of the ten, only a small crowd remains.  God looks up to see this handful of stern, smug, grim-faced, self-righteous, joyless miseries staring back at him.  He pauses and contemplates the prospect of spending eternity with this lot.  “All right!” he shouts, “Everybody can come back; I’ve changed my mind.”

During the season of Advent, I love to practice hospitality by welcoming the other in light of our hope.

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