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Amos Yong: Hospitality and the Other

In turning to Acts, Yong extends the life and teaching of the Lukan Jesus to the emerging Christian community. Like Jesus, early Christians are also recipients and conduits of God’s hospitality (Acts 1:1). Whether through household relationships and table fellowship or journeying and itinerancy, followers of the Way model reception and extension of the redemptive and pneumatological hospitality of God envisioned on the Day of Pentecost. In fact, Yong argues that Luke’s vision of pneumatological openness finds its roots in the wider arena of ancient Israelite practice of hospitality. Luke links Stephen’s story which culminates in the scattering of Christians (Acts 8:1-4) to the flight of a long line of displaced Hebrew figures including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the prophets and Jesus. The early Christians, now scattered, displaced, and even persecuted, continue the Israelite story and become missionaries while aliens and strangers. The Israelites as perpetual sojourners accommodate strangers and aliens among them, a constant reminder of their own displacement. Furthermore, God calls Israel not only to responsible care for the poor, widows, orphans, slaves, and temporary residents but also to extend the blessings of YHWH with the rights and privileges of community to these same outsiders. In continuity with the Israelite story, Christians must also depend upon diasporic hospitality (Acts 8:1-4; 11:9-20; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1); while aliens and strangers in this world, early Christians, as perpetual guests of God and others, imitate the Israelite posture when serving as hosts (124).

By way of a powerful closing, Yong links exegesis of Luke-Acts (and the larger biblical story) to contemporary Christianity. As the early Christians improvised the reception and extension of Jesus’ hospitality, so also contemporary Christians must continue improvisation of the reception and extension of Jesus’ and early Christian’s hospitality. If Pentecost symbolizes the ever-available extent of God’s abundant hospitality “for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39) and if gifts of the Spirit provide innovative power for God’s people as guests and hosts, sometimes simultaneously, then missio dei must center not only on mere enlargement of the church, but the kingdom of God (126-7). Christians must discern the Spirit’s presence and “perform” appropriate practices in concert with the hospitable God. They must embody Christ’s incarnational vulnerability and open up theological and relational “free space” not only to serve as hosts for the gospel but also risk being guests of others (132). While Yong offers few specifics, he calls for an artistic ecclesiology marked by congregational hospitality. He implores individual Christians and institutional Christianity to begin with orthopraxis, that is, basic accommodations, a welcoming public face, a dialogical posture, and a commitment to public service. His work challenges pastors, scholars, college/seminary students and informed Christians to link attentive theology to innovative praxis. Readers embarking upon research/study preparation in Luke-Acts, ecclesiology, pastoral theology, world religions, and missiology will surely benefit from this work. Finally, Pentecostal readers ever interested in the life of the Spirit should welcome Yong’s theological and practical extension of Pentecost and the narrative of Luke-Acts.

Reviewed by Martin Mittlestadt

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2009

About the Author: Martin Mittelstadt, M.Div. (Providence Theological Seminary, 1990), Ph.D. (Marquette University, 2000), serves as Professor of Biblical Studies at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He primarily makes his living in the Gospels and Luke-Acts (see his The Spirit and Suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal Pneumatology (Bloomsbury, 2004) and Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (CPT Press, 2010)). Ongoing interests tend to convergence around Pentecostal / Charismatic studies with a special attention to Pentecostal – Anabaptist relations (i.e. Mennocostalism), and spiritual formation. See his bio and publications on his Evangel University faculty page.

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