Thursday, January 12, 2012

Southern Hospitality

The Sunny South. Known for its juicy peaches, sweet tea, and good ole hospitality. However, the other day a Peruvian friend of mine made the comment that people in the South are not very friendly. At first, I was taken aback. Aren't "southern" and "friendly" synonymous? But then I thought about it. For some time I have watched the decline of hospitality. There are a number of possible reasons: prejudice against immigrants, suspicion of strangers, a faster pace of life. But the fact remains. Hospitality is a dying art.

The culture in South America is hinged around hospitality. During my mission trip to Peru, I was surprised at the warm reception our team received. At church on Sunday, people whom we had never met before came up to us smiling, hugged us, kissed us on both cheeks, and welcomed us. They ate with us, worshiped with us, worked alongside us, and prayed for us.

They put me to shame. How many times have I conveniently pretended not to see someone because I'm in a hurry? How many times have I neglected to welcome newcomers at my church because "someone else will do it"? How many times have I smilingly held someone at acquaintance-distance because "I have enough friends to keep up with as it is"?

Perhaps it is not southern hospitality that is dying. Perhaps it is Christian hospitality. Isn't that where southern hospitality found its source? Hospitality is opening your heart and home--an unconditional acceptance of someone. In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus said, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." This is true hospitality. This is the heart of the Christian faith. When it has died, it will be a sad thing indeed.