A Series on Peter
When Peter descends from the rooftop, the Spirit tells him that there is a group of men looking for him. This is probably not strange for Peter until he sees the men, that is! I imagine he was a little surprised to discover that the men weren't Jewish; they were Gentiles!
Peter's culture was pretty clear about the protocol for spending time with Gentiles- don't do it. But Peter is told not to ignore these men, so he invites them in. He extends to them what might be considered a remarkable amount of hospitality. Perhaps Peter himself washed the feet of the strangers before inviting them into a meal, sitting with them, fellowshipping with them. Perhaps he gave them as much food and drink as he could supply, and offered more even when they were full. Though the Old Testament certainly required Peter to be hospitable to strangers, there is little doubt that this experience was a stretch even for him!
Similarly to Peter, our churches have become pretty good at extending hospitality. As a result too many churches who have been called to multicultural ministry are actually practicing multicultural hospitality. The difference mostly lies in the maintenance of power. Believe me, I love extending hospitality to my friends. I would rather invite people to my home than meet at a restaurant. In my home I can better express my love, making sure my friends feel comfortable and special. Hospitality is a beautiful expression of love and concern for others, but we are kidding ourselves if we don't also acknowledge the power dynamics involved in hospitality. I make the decisions. I set the parameters. I determine the extent of graciousness.
Do you see the similarities with multicultural hospitality? The dominant group considers the church "theirs", and therefore has the right to make decisions, set parameters, and determine the extent of graciousness offered to those who are "just guests" who should be grateful for any amount of hospitality shown.
But here's the thing, Peter wasn't told to extend hospitality. He was told to go with the men. Hospitality will never get you to multicultural ministry. It can be a great first step, an introduction, a time of learning, but ultimately you will have to walk the road of inconvenience and inquietude to truly experience the revelation of multiculturalism.
What I love next about this story, is that two communities of people- Jews and Gentiles- begin a 30 mile overnight journey together in which neither can claim power over the other. They are forming relationship in the space between their isolated communities, while on their way to immerse themselves in the "other". How many churches can you think of that are more interested in recruitment and hospitality than journeying and immersion?
If we want to follow Peter's example, we must be willing to release power, to journey with others, to risk hostility and experience a little discomfort in our lives. We must be willing to obey the Spirit and go.