by Priya Samuel
I come from a culture where high moral standards, obedience to parents, hospitality, modesty, a wife’s submission to her husband, and other things were traditions passed down from generation to generation.
For example, when it comes to hospitality, I jump right into action like a trained poodle. Too often I have the tendency to ascribe glory to my ethnicity and culture instead of thanking God for Spirit-empowered service to be hospitable to others.
When I became a Christian, I stopped worshipping idols and began worshipping Jesus Christ. But as I read in God’s word about the moral things I’ve just mentioned above, they did not seem new or counter-cultural to me. These were values that I already cherished and practices that I was already accustomed to. “I’m already a pretty good Christian,” I thought.
However, by the grace of God, I later realized that this perspective of Christianity was wrong. As a believer in Jesus, my good works should proceed from a heart trusting in Jesus because whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). I began to see how the message of the gospel is counter-intuitive to rebellious sinners. I need God’s grace to understand the gospel and live in light of the gospel. It goes to follow that everything that God commands in light of this gospel ought to be motivated and empowered by his grace, too.
A passage in 1 Peter chapter 1 calls my former pride-empowered virtues, no matter how closely they resembled Christian piety, as “passions of former ignorance” (1:14) and “futile ways of life inherited from my forefathers” (1:18), because they were devoid of the knowledge of God and faith in his Son. I also learned that God has caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3). I am now to be holy in all my conduct (1:15), not merely practicing the external religiosity that I grew up learning.
Believers in Jesus Christ are to adopt a new attitude of mind and heart in every area of life (Rom. 12:2). This means that the way I now practice things like hospitality, modesty, submission or even mundane things like eating, drinking, and homemaking, should be fundamentally different. That is, everything ought to be holy and informed by the knowledge of God and the gospel, not ignorance of his grace (1 Pet. 1:14).
The gospel should fuel into every practice and good work that I do to the glory of God the Father. Sure, the externals might look common, but Christian behavior is by the blood-soaked mercy of Jesus. Christ ransomed me from my ignorant, futile ways by his precious blood (1:18). My hospitality minus Jesus is me-centered. My modesty minus a regenerate heart is like a white-washed tomb. My submission minus the work of Jesus on the cross is self-serving.
Something I took great cultural pride in was that in regards to hospitality, “We never say ‘no!’” My self-righteous heart took great pride in this, and when I wasn’t in a mood to show hospitality, it left me frustrated and grumbling. But gospel-empowered hospitality is liberating because it is grounded in the love of God which was manifested in sending his Son to die on the cross for our sins (1 John 4:9-11). God pours his love into my heart so that I might love my neighbor joyfully!
What a joy it is that the Lord himself causes ordinary things like our hospitality to overflow from the love he pours into our hearts! We can, by his grace, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
ABOUT THE WRITER
Priya is from Hyderabad and is trained in physiotherapy. Her husband Anand is a pastor at United Christian Church of Dubai. They have three boys with soul-searching brown eyes (Rohan, Aryan and Daven). Priya’s morning always starts with a cup of tea with evaporated milk and 5 tsp of sugar. She loves to search the Old Testament Scriptures to see how they point to Jesus.