I have cockroaches in my home. This is a problem not just because they are unsightly pests, and not just because they are a health hazard, but also because I just really don’t like bugs, of any variety.
They crawl across my kitchen counter and up and down my bathroom walls. My skin is crawling at the the thought, even as I write this.
But I’m thankful for these roaches in my house, because they are a reminder to me of the costliness of obedience.
Several months ago, my wife and I were approached by a young lady in need.
She was homeless, struggling to complete high school, and she had a 9-month-old baby. We decided that we would open our home to her and her son, and help her get her feet under her so that she could complete high school and get her life started well.
But she brought us roaches.
This young lady was brought up in a home environment vastly different than that of our privileged, white, middle class upbringing, and as such she lacked, through no fault of her own, some basic life skills.
She ate in her bedroom and didn’t clean up the mess, and left half eaten food lying around her room and other parts of the house. After we found her a more permanent home, and she moved out, we discovered that she had left behind a cockroach infestation.
Have I mentioned that I hate bugs?#Faithfulness comes with the demand to #obey Christ’s commands. #love Click To Tweet
The Meaning of Hospitality
As I have reflected on the experience of hosting this young woman and her son, though, I have realized that I wouldn’t change the initial decision to take her in. This is because I have become increasingly convicted that if I am to truly practice Christianity—not in words only, but also in truth—then, I have to obey Jesus’ commands, among which is the obligation to practice hospitality.
Hospitality is more than offering a glass of lemonade to a guest or hosting a dinner party. It means that we extend the protection of our roofs, the warmth of our hearths, and the bounty of our larders to those in need, even—indeed especially—to those who are strangers to us.
It means putting into practice, without conditions, the Greatest Commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves, even if they have habits that we dislike.
This practice, however, comes with cost. Faithfulness to the gospel does not come cheap. It comes with the demand to obey Christ’s commands, come what may. God’s grace brings suffering, difficulties, and trials.
It is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “costly grace.” It is in that realization that we can let go of our own comfort and obey.
Accepting the Roaches
All of this leads me back to cockroaches. I have an infestation of disgusting, dirty, downright unsettling pests in the home that I love and share with my family. But if this is the price of fidelity to Jesus’ commandment, to the biblical duty of hospitality, then it is a price I have to pay—and gladly.
We could not reject this young woman because of her life choices or her hygiene habits. We had to be obedient to Christ’s command, and practice hospitality in spite of the potential cost.
The cost of the apostles’ obedience to the command to proclaim the gospel was that they were flogged. Yet Luke tells us that “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5.41).
I am, in my own less intense way, suffering the effects of obedience, for the sake of the name. It is only by understanding that obedience comes with cost that I am able to rejoice.