The primitive church of the first three centuries practiced Radical Hospitality, and it thrived. The church of the twenty-first century must practice likewise or it will survive unrecognizable, and indistinguishable from any other religious ideology of human concoction. Christendom is no longer relevant, it is a bygone paradigm. The church today must be a living organism, not a lifeless organization. It cannot assume a common culture, but must take for granted the diversity in the mass of humanity and, therefore itself. We must return to the Radical Hospitality of Jesus Christ and the church He brought to life.
“Radical” is from the Latin word radix, meaning “root” (Isaiah 11:10; Rom. 15:12; Rev. 22:16). Today it is describes someone who “advocates violent change; a revolutionary.” But it originally meant “fundamental, or basic.” In chemistry a radical is a group of two or more atoms acting as a single atom. In math a radical is an equation where the root of a number is to be extracted. The root word, in Latin, for “Hospitality” is hospes (where we get the word “hospital”), and it means “good cheer, companionship, and good fellowship.” So, etymologically, we could say that the church is a basic, revolutionary place; a dispensary of holistic healing, where the whole acts as one and Jesus is the single root.
The church that practices Radical Hospitality (John 5:1-9) understands that humanity is hurting and broken; that it’s separated from one another and alienated from God. It realizes that at their core, humans are strangers to healing and wholeness. It gives these strangers a sense that the church really cares about them personally. And it reflects the truth of God’s love toward humanity. A church that practices Radical Hospitality does not simply place an “All Are Welcome” sign in front of the building, have a “covered dish” meal, and stand around waiting for the strangers to darken the doorway of their establishment (which strangers, by-the-way, never appear). The church is the people who, having answered the invitation to experience the transformation of Christ’s healing power, goes out in Christ’s transformation power inviting others to answer and experience the healing; having been reconciled, goes out to carry on the mission of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:18); having been made disciples, goes out and makes disciples (Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8-11).
Radical Hospitality is not inviting people to be spectators at church, but participants in the church – the Body of Christ. It is not about an ideology that competes with other differing ideologies, but a reality which encounters no competition and is the fount of all truth. It is an invitation into the very heart of God; sharing God’s worldview in creation. While Radical Hospitality cares for those within the church, it is focused on those strangers who are without the church. Radical Hospitality is the church fulfilling its purpose as the image of God; offering the love of God (something people need) – Jesus Christ! It shows humanity that God loves them, that it is of value, that life has meaning and purpose, and that it is not on its own. Radical Hospitality teaches humanity how to love (out of God’s love). And it teaches us that we do not need to be told what we need, but we need to be shown what we need.
Hospitality is to always be Radical. It is always advocating basic revolutionary change. In the words of Edwards Deming, “A system produces what it was designed to produce.” No other results will occur if a change has not occurred in the system. We cannot continue to do things the way they have always been done and expect different results. We must return to the radical beginnings of the “original, basic, and native” church established by Christ. Church must be about a group of “atoms” acting as one single “atom” (Jesus!). Church must be a hospital where people are healed by the Great Physician. Church is to be an organism, rather than an organization, where its Root (Jesus) is extracted from its number (The People).