I recently heard a talk by Sherry Turkle called Connected, But Alone?, which made me think . . . why do we hide behind our phones, texting instead of calling? Why do we meet people at Starbucks or Panera Bread instead of inviting them over to our house? (Yep, you read correctly — “invite, house” — those words, practically foreign to us these days.) Why do we freely share opinions through our Facebook status but can barely manage a conversation for more than five minutes face-to-face? There has been a lot of buzz around our smartphones and their effect on both our relationships and intelligence. The average person looks at his or her phone forty times a day, even more if one’s job requires updates through various messaging services. Psychologists say that the number of “likes,” or “dings” on one’s phone, can deliver feelings of gratification similar to those from a drug high.
In the talk I referenced earlier, I learned that when teenagers were asked what new product from Apple they most wanted, many answered, “a best friend.” A best friend?!? (If that doesn’t “gut-punch” hurt you, you might want to check your pulse.) This is supposed to be the most “connected” generation ever. They have endless ways to communicate, hundreds of media outlets, and can literally sit in their pjs to order food that arrives on their doorstep within minutes. Then why are we obviously so unhappy? Why is the suicide rate up, and why do antidepressants and anxiety medications have an all time user high? Why? Because people lack meaningful relationships, which they desperately need. People need a personal relationship with God for ultimate wholeness, but humans also need relationships, real connection, with other human beings, too.
From creation God saw that Adam was alone, so he created Eve and, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ” Genesis 2:18 King Solomon observed the importance of relationships, “Two are better than one for they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.…” Ecclesiastes 4:9 So if we know that God designed us to commune with others, especially to fellowship with other Believers, why do we neglect to open our hearts and essentially, our homes to one another?
Admittedly, I suffer from the “Martha complex.” You know, when the hostess wants everything to be so perfect for guests that she fails to enjoy the guests themselves. Time after time I’ve told myself that one day, when I have a bigger house, or nicer furniture or even something as silly as a good smelling hand soap (sadly, that is a true story, but for another day), I will then invite more people over. Images of homes in magazines make me feel like my home is not “up to par,” not quite “guest-ready,” which is just a lie Satan uses to prevent us from practicing hospitality, one of the best ways to show God’s love to the lost and broken world all around us. For you, it may not be your home, exactly; perhaps you are unsure about what to cook or you fear no one will accept your invitation or maybe you simply feel too tired to tidy up. Let me tell you somethin’, if you are waiting for the Pinterest perfect menu, a Martha Stewart table setting, or a dust-free house, it ain’t going to happen. (But if you find a way to make your house dust free, please come over to show me!) Seriously, stop making excuses. God’s Word is replete with verses that command us to be hospitable.
Being in sales for nine years, most every day I heard the mantra, “relationships matter.” It is vital to build trust and to connect with clients from the very first meeting. One of the best ways to do this is by eating meals together. My manager literally told us “to break bread” with our clients. Often. That term always reminded me of Jesus breaking loaves of bread with His own hands to feed the thousands gathered around Him. He understood the importance of feeding His followers both spiritually and physically. His disciples wanted to send them away, but Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14: 16 Jesus wanted to show his disciples two truths: first, He was in control of the situation and second, feeding the crowd under those extraordinary circumstances would make a lasting impression. What was the last thing Jesus did with all of His disciples before dying on the cross? He not only ate with them, the Son of God, Himself, presented them them food and drink, bread and wine. In fact, he began by washing their feet, a very powerful expression of humility and service in that culture. That gracious act of servitude foreshadowed His ultimate act of love, grace and mercy — sacrificing Himself on the cross for our sins. Matthew 20:28 says, “He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” No, I’m not suggesting that we wash one another’s feet, but if the King of Kings loved the world enough to perform demeaning tasks, to serve a meal to impart spiritual truths and to sacrifice Himself in the ultimate manner, can we not, at the very least, offer someone a cup of coffee or glass of tea? Opened doors and shared meals will open hearts, lift burdens and forge lasting friendships, so why are we not doing this?
I am convinced that basically, there are three reasons:
1) People are selfish.
2) Relationships are messy.
3) Hospitality makes us vulnerable.
Reaching out to join someone for lunch or to invite someone into your home for a meal takes time, energy and money. It’s just so much easier to order take-out, stream Netflix and scroll through Facebook in your pjs. But what if I told you that you can do these things with friends, too! Okay, maybe not scroll through Facebook in your pjs, but you can still enjoy each other’s company in yoga pants, a pretty close second! Actually breathing the same air, you can learn in real time what’s going on in people’s lives, not just the blip of their status. However, inviting people into your private world and sharing your own background and current burdens is risky and can get messy. We all carry a lot of “baggage” — past guilt, current shame, and just a multitude of issues in between, but in Luke 5:31-32, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.” Taking time to really listen to others and to be opened with them in return, reveals the compassionate character of God. People see how much we care about them when we extend our arms to draw them in close, ultimately demonstrating how much more God values them and desires an intimate relationship with them.
The Prince of Darkness will do everything in his power to keep us from sharing the Good News, shining the light of Truth for lost souls to see the Way to new Life in Christ. Just like that line in the children’s song, This Little Light of Mine, “Won’t let Satan blow it out, I am going to let it shine,” we must hold forth the Gospel light and shine bright. The enemy wants us to put off inviting that coworker to dinner or starting a Bible study in our homes, because he knows that through the Holy Spirit working in us, lost souls will come to Jesus and hurt hearts will be healed. Sure, hospitality is a gift, and for some people, it’s an art form, but do not allow Satan to discourage you when you sense God urging you to invite, host, lead a group, to minister to many or to just one. Like most everything else, “practice makes perfect.” Well, maybe not “perfect,” but indeed, “better,” and the more often you invite people into your home and practice hospitality, the easier it becomes, and you will soon discover that no one minds sitting on the floor to make room for everyone. Eating off of paper plates matters little, but having been invited and made to feel welcomed matter a lot and make a lasting impression.
It goes without saying, social media has a two-edged sword, both positive and negative. It can foster as well as hinder relationships, especially if we rely solely on that as our means to interact with others. So, I encourage you to meet a friend for a cup of coffee, invite that new family at church over for lunch, or simply just sit on your front porch (or back) with a neighbor, soaking in some rays and drinking iced tea while in good conversation. Let me tell ya somethin,’ you may miss a few updates, but the time spent in one-on-one fellowship is time well spent and will make you forget all about your #fomo. (That’s “fear of missing out,” for those of you, like myself, who are not up-to-date on the current texting lingo, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)