March 4, 2022
Last Saturday, we threw off the confines of COVID and had two couples with small children over for dinner. Both couples have lived in Canada between 10 and 20 years, and both come from cultures quite different from ours, one from East Africa and the other from Iran and Afghanistan. The Africans were raised Christians; the others are MBBs (Muslim background believers) who embraced Jesus while living here.
What to cook? Every time I visit these MBBs, lots of food—some of it very elaborate—is produced. As I pondered the menu, the familiar dread (I'm a writer, not a chef) started to creep in of trying to prepare a variety of dishes the guests will like and having the food ready, not knowing for sure what time they would eventually arrive, and then being tired out after cooking most of the afternoon and hoping they won't stay too late so I can finally relax. My joy in having friends over was being robbed!
Then I had a tiny revelation. Why do I have to offer hospitality according to their patterns? Why not offer them what I have? I decided to make a one-pot stew and a refreshing salad, buy buns, a pie and ice cream, and prepare it all in the morning. I could just heat up the stew when they arrived.
We had a most wonderfully relaxed family time with each one connecting and enjoying great fun together. Afterward, my dear Afghan friend commented, "Something I don't like about my culture is you have to make so much food when people come over and then nobody eats." Really! That was another tiny revelation.
We have the most to offer others by being ourselves. Another word for this is freedom. One definition of freedom is "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved". I was imprisoned by my skewed perceptions of someone else’s expectations. My tiny revelations may not seem profound, yet I am convinced many of us who want to reach out to people of other cultures, and Muslims in particular, sometimes sacrifice authenticity for fear of being disrespectful of culture. This is one way in which satan hinders us and compromises our witness of Jesus' love.
Let's unveil our faces before our neighbors and friends, because that's the way they will see the Lord who lives in us.
Consider these verses:
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Lord, am I contemplating Your glory, so that what I have to offer others comes from You?
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Lord, am I serving humbly in love, not trying to make an impression but being myself, the person You are satisfied to send to represent You to my neighbors?
"Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom."
(Song of Songs 2:15)
Yes Lord, catch for us the little foxes that steal our joy as we love the neighbors You've given us.