‘Targeted acts of kindness’ - Everyday Hospitality
Exodus 23: 1-9
1 You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. 2 You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; 3 nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.
4 When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.
5 When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.
6 You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
9 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
This month we have been considering the ultimate invitation Jesus has given us - the profound hospitality of the resurrection, of his coming back for us. As we draw to a close, our challenge is not to think of hospitality as a special occasional thing; but instead to see it as a way of life that encourages us to look out for others.
The reading from Exodus for today weaves ‘the law’ into everyday life. This is not hospitality as an event. This is hospitality as a reflex.
It’s lovely to see ‘random acts of kindness’ shared on social media. The heartwarming moments when people do something surprisingly nice for a stranger, ‘just because’. This passage though, challenges us to think of ‘targeted acts of kindness’ that we do, not for strangers, but for people we know all too well: the people we can’t stand.
I want to think specifically about verses 4-5, about coming across oxen and donkeys that belong to an enemy of ours. I want us to challenge ourselves to think of a non-agricultural version of this commandment, to bring it home to those of us who don’t come across many oxen or donkeys in peril.
Here are some tongue-in-cheek suggestions to get us going:
- when you come upon your enemy’s expenses report going astray, you shall bring it to their attention
- when you see that your enemy is about to click ‘reply all’ instead of ‘reply’ on a sensitive work email and you are tempted to let them walk into it, you must remind them
- when you come upon your enemy’s USB stick left on the desk while they confidently head out to a ‘make or break’ presentation without it, you shall catch them up and give it to them
- when you see that the one who hates you is about to order 5000 reams of paper instead of 500, you shall move a decimal point
Challenge us to be more hospitable
in the everyday
even with people we can’t stand.
Help us respond to your ultimate invitation.