Race Relations and Hospitality - The Warrior's Journey®
Selfless Service

Race Relations and Hospitality

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

Convoy brief. Photo by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC By 2.0

One of my first duties as a new chaplain was leading the young adult ministry. The group was well established, racially diverse, and seemed to get along with one another. But the relationships lacked depth, so my wife and I decided to move the young adult ministry into our home because we knew deep relationships thrive with hospitality.

Breaking Bread

Warhorse Soldiers and Diwaniya sheiks break bread together and discuss local issues in an assessment of a district of the province on Dec. 14.

It was in our home we could feed them with the Word and with good food. We knew we would have to budget our finances and time, but we believed it was worth it. In our home around the table, these surface-level relationships grew to a depth they had not known before.

There is a bond that develops as people break bread together, regardless of race. That’s why mealtime was such a vital part of Jesus’ ministry. He shared meals with His friends but also with the outcasts, disenfranchised, and even His enemies. But I think one particular meal provides us with a way forward for our current upheaval in race relations.

In John 21, Peter had returned to his fishing business. His three years with Jesus had been life-changing, but now that Jesus’ climactic death and resurrection were over, Peter didn’t know what to do. Plus, he hadn’t dealt with his denial and abandonment of Jesus. The relationship with Jesus was civil and respectable but was far from what it had been or where it needed to be. That’s when Jesus showed up on the beach to restore their relationship with the words, “come and have breakfast” (verse 12).

Peter and Jesus had a heart-to-heart talk about failure and a new start. That’s where Peter was honest about his love for Jesus and where Jesus charged him with “feeding” His sheep and following Him (verses 15, 17, and 19). Peter was never the same.

Listening & Hospitality

Mealtime is an opportunity for us to slow down and talk about life. At mealtimes, we find out about people’s stories, their dreams and desires, their triumphs and defeats. It’s where we begin to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

I understand how protesting is an exercise of free speech rights and one way to deal with the long-standing problem of racism. It certainly has made an impact on our culture. I’m just not sure how deep the change will go or how long it will last.

I believe a better model for racial reconciliation is the practice of hospitality. Deep relationships are developed over shared meals. The food provides fuel for our conversations, which should include building friendships and restoring broken relationships.

Why not invite someone from another race over to your home for dinner? Make a commitment of time and money and see what God will do. You will never be the same.

Taking Action

A soldier with the Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique (FADM) listens as Marines explain how to prepare a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) July 30, 2010. Marines with the 25th Marine Regiment spent part of the day demonstrating to the Mozambicans how Marines survive in the field. U.S. service members are partnering with the Mozambican military for Exercise SHARED ACCORD 2010, a 10-day, bi-lateral U.S.-Mozambican exercise coordinated for U.S. Africa Command by its Marine component, U.S. Marine Forces Africa. The exercise runs Aug. 3-13.

Sharing your home and meal with others can be difficult if you have never done it. Here are a few tips to help make sure things go as smoothly as possible as you aim to build deep relationships with others.

  1. Ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions. While many people eat a wide array of foods, some people you invite to your home may have dietary restrictions. Their dietary restrictions should not be a point of contention for you. You might discover why they have those restrictions as you grow in relationship with one another.
  2. Allow your guests to share their stories. Every person is unique, and there is no better way to build a deep relationship with them than to hear their stories in an environment free of judgment.
  3. Be open to your guests’ perspectives and experiences challenging your worldview. Though similar, no two people experience the same things in the same way. Their background might open your eyes to things you had never noticed before.

As you take the time to extend hospitality to those of another race, both you and they will benefit from the relationships forged around the table.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/3130949998/ (By U.S. Army, Licensed under CC by 2.0)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/1467791483/ (By U.S. Army, Licensed under CC by 2.0)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/4844428132/ (By Marines, Licensed under US Govt Work)

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