the good way

Hostility to Hospitality

Session 6 • Hospitality • Activation

When it comes to welcoming the stranger, we have to recognize that within each of us bias exists.

Henri Nouwen has written beautifully and extensively about the spiritual life and in his book Reaching Out he talks about three polarities that exist within us that we oscillate between, much like a pendulum might swing.

One polarity he talks about forms the basis of our relationship to others, and this is the polarity between hostility and hospitality. The most important thing is to recognize that we cannot bypass hostility and somehow arrive at true hospitality. Our hostilities cannot be overlooked, ignored or denied if we are to truly move towards a presence of Christ-like welcome.

Personal Reflection:

  • What is my posture towards the ‘stranger’ or those who are different from me, in terms of race, ethnicity, age, education, or socio-economic status?
  • What blatant or subtle forms of hostility or prejudice prevent me from engaging with others?
  • What inner work do I need to do in order to appropriately address my implicit/unconscious bias?
  • How can I invite Jesus to lead me into greater healing and freedom?

Check your Circle

The depth of our own personal transformation related to racial reconciliation will largely be dependent on the scope and depth of our circle of friends. Right now, unlock your phone and look at the last ten text messages that you have sent or received.

  1. How similar or different are those ten people from you?
  2. How are they shaping your seeing and your thinking?
  3. How can you expand your circle and pursue friendships across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines?

Sadly, 75% of white people have no racial diversity at all in their networks. Part of journeying towards Christ-like hospitality will mean opening our circles and getting rid of our silos. The table of God is a place of reconciliation, belonging, family and healing and it is most certainly not a homogenous table. Who is missing around your metaphorical table?

It’s vital to remember that this is not about making everyone look, sound and act the same. Henri Nouwen says that true hospitality is about creating a ‘friendly emptiness’ where strangers can enter and be completely themselves.

“Free to sing their own songs, speak their own language, dance their own dances.” Henri Nouwen

What would it look like if our church community was truly a hospitable space in this sense? How can we intentionally create a friendly, empty space where there is no subtle or blatant pressure for everyone to look the same or sound the same or worship the same way? When that day comes we will have created space for healing and reconciliation to happen.


Below are some resources to help you unpack what unconscious bias is so that you can begin to address it in your own life.

In this article, Dr Pragya Agarwal explains what Unconscious Bias is and how it affects more than we know.

Below is a short video from Jennifer L. Eberhardt, who is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University talking about how implicit bias works.

This article by Jenée Desmond-Harris explains what a micro aggression is.

In this article, Simmi Uppaladadium explains why you shouldn’t ask, ‘But Where Are you Really From?’ You might also be interested in checking out Janice Lee and Connie Li’s podcast: But Where Are You Really From?

View other resources for this session