Redeemer Presbyterian Church – East Side Update
What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31)? Well, in many ways, this command is what it means to practice hospitality. However, what makes this command challenging is what the Bible means by love and neighbor.
In English we only have one word for love, which we use in countless situations. However, Greek has four words for love, two of which are worth considering. First, phileo is the kind of love experienced in a friendship or brotherhood context. This is where Philadelphia gets its name — “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Second, however, the word used in Mark 12 is the Greek word agape. Agape is a transcendent kind of love, rooted in the character of God, and is expressed through loving action. It is the way God loves us. Consider Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own agape for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, before we loved God, God loved us (1 John 4:19).
Who then is my neighbor that I should agape? Interestingly, Jesus is asked this question in Luke 10. In his response, Jesus tells the parable of The Good Samaritan. In the parable, the Samaritan cares for an injured Jewish man at great personal risk and financial cost. The tension of the parable is the fact that Samaritans and Jews hated each other. Yet, Jesus says they are neighbors.
You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with hospitality? Well, often we think about hospitality in relation to how we treat and welcome our family, friends, co-workers, or literal next door neighbors. Without a doubt, we should show these people kindness, compassion and hospitality. However, if we are only showing love to those we like or who like us, we have missed what it means to “love our neighbor” through hospitality.
Redeemer defines hospitality as “regularly inviting people, especially those who are different from us, into our lives through the sharing of time, attention and resources.” This definition seeks to encourage all of us to love people across differences that often divide us. Loving those from a different ethnic/racial/cultural background, political affiliation, socioeconomic bracket, religious belief system, or other divide is where the practice of hospitality can be the most difficult and yet most reflect agape love. Those moments of hospitality are where God is most honored because they most closely reflect the kind of love he has for us.
Thus, may we always remember and live in response to the knowledge that “...God demonstrates his own agape for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
East Side Pastoral Resident
It was painful, but at the same time so wonderful because I felt that as this dark burden was being shared it didn’t have such a grip on me anymore; it was as if God himself had come into the dark room and flooded His light into it.
A couple weeks ago, I had a frank conversation with one of our pastors, Aaron Bjerke, and he asked me, “How did your story of generosity start?” Truth be told I didn’t know where to start, so I started at the beginning.
Growing up I was quite spoiled. I was an only child whom my grandparents doted on, both of my parents worked so they weren’t around much to discipline me. I didn’t have any internships in college, and my first experience of work of any kind was after I graduated college. I didn’t know much about the value of hard work and how to earn a living. That is, until I moved to New York City.
New York City is quite unique in its ability to whip a human being into shape. I did all that I could to make friends, get the job that I wanted, and upkeep an expensive social life. And by that, I mostly mean cab rides and Seamless. Over the years I overspent, and I thought that I could get away with just minimum payments on my credit card. I was addicted to people’s approval, social standing, and proving my worth as a New Yorker with each swipe.
By the time I was 25, I managed to max out three credit cards. To make things worse, I received a letter from the IRS saying that I owed the government about ten grand because I had borrowed it from them years before. By then, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. My finances had snowballed into something that was terrifying to me. I was anxious and never told anyone my financial issues because it was just embarrassing that I didn’t know how to be financially competent; more importantly, that I didn’t have my life together and was a hot mess.
I don’t know how God perfectly does what He does. But during that same time in my life, I had a friend who was my co-leader for our community group and a financial planner. He went through all my credit card statements, helped me create a yearly budget, and daily kept me accountable.
During this whole process I felt so naked and exposed. This part of my life that I buried and didn’t want to acknowledge was now out in the open. It was painful, but at the same time so wonderful because I felt that as this dark burden was being shared it didn’t have such a grip on me anymore; it was as if God himself had come into the dark room and flooded His light into it.
About a year later, I attended a generosity retreat. I learned so much. My most important takeaway was that all the money that I earn is not earned, it is given as a gift from God. Everything I have is God’s.
That truth was so liberating to me, because now I understand that the more money I have, the more responsibility I have. I know now that God has entrusted me as a manager of my money and talents. I also know that God loves me no matter what. It’s this unconditional love that keeps me away from anxiety and closer to becoming more like Him, a generous and audacious God.
Looking back, this whole process was necessary for me to realize that I was sinning by not giving this issue up to God. It’s not even about the debt — I could have replaced that with anything else in my life. It just happened to be about money. Anytime I hold something tightly in my hand, it causes me anxiety, and then I have to remember to give it up to God.
Today, I pray that God reveals Himself to you so that you can weave your own path of generosities of money, talents, and time. What will your generosity story be?
+ Nominate yourself or a friend to lead or host a beta group for seven weeks this fall.
+ Interning in the city for the summer? Register for a community group just for interns starting today at 7 p.m. in midtown.
+ Thank you East Side members for your feedback in the Members Collective survey!
+ Bike and fundraise for New Yorkers in need in HFNY's annual Charity Bike Ride on September 22.
+ Deliver meals to homebound elderly residents of UES with HFNY on Saturday, July 21 from 9:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
+ Sort and pack materials at Cru Inner City in Queens with HFNY on Saturday, July 21 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
+ Save the date for the next formation conference on justice happening November 16-17 at the NY Society for Ethical Culture. Registration opens in August.