As Christians, we’re called to show love and generosity to others. But with so many ethical standards, political sensitivities, cultural customs and dietary needs to be aware of today, is it too hard to invite someone over without offending by how we serve them? Ethics researcher Kimberley Pfeiffer says knowing that all goodness comes from God and that the ultimate ‘social influencer’ is at work in hearts rather than on Instagram, frees us to offer Christian hospitality without fear of faux pas.

by Kimberley Pfeiffer

We live in a time where everyone seems to be ‘ethical’ about something.

Philosophically, ethics is about the pursuit of the good. But for us as Christians, we believe that goodness is God. He’s the giver of goodness.

So, as Christians, we don’t look at ethics as a philosophical framework. We look at it from the perspective of God coming to us in Christ and giving himself to us. He is the Creator of beauty. He’s the truth that informs all goodness. And we come to know all these things about God through Christ.

Out of our faith, we learn what goodness is and we enter into our lives, sharing the goodness that comes from God. We don’t need to try to reach ‘ideal’ standards of living, because that’s all done in Christ. We have this immense freedom to serve others.

When we practise hospitality, we want everyone to feel they belong, and we don’t ostracise anyone because they’ve got particular needs – instead we can pray for them. We can also commend our anxieties to God about getting things wrong when we serve because hospitality is a spirit, not a rule book.

And hospitality is more than food – it’s also about giving our time. So, if preparing a meal seems too fraught due to a person’s needs, we might share a cuppa and a chat.

It’s also helpful to remember that we’re not in control of the Holy Spirit and the way God draws people. That’s not our job.

In contrast, the concept of being a ‘social influencer’ is a big thing today. People who advocate for their brands and ‘ethical’ projects on social media push paradigms such as: ‘Do what I do, look how beautiful I am, you want to be beautiful like me.’

Instead, we trust the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and those around us. We can confess our faith, share God’s gifts and demonstrate our spiritual posture through hospitality. When we share our table, we can ask a blessing before a meal and give thanks afterwards, so that what we’re saying is, ‘The gifts that I share with you to serve you are actually from God’.

And that spirit of hospitality releases us from a lot of pressure because we’re not trying to push things on people. True Christian hospitality is a gift. We’re sharing God’s love but there are no strings attached. Out of the gifts we receive, we share.

And what you’re really doing through hospitality is sharing life together – and you never know where that will take you.

Kimberley Pfeiffer is the secretary of the LCA’s Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions.

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