Keto culinary genius lies entirely in the art of substitution. Reproducing foods we love using almond flour rather than wheat or stevia in place of sugar allows us more with less. Admittedly, it requires a shift in expectations, but the keto chef quickly amasses an arsenal of faux ingredients. And while the taste of our carb-laden favorites can be approximated, texture often suffers. Substitution must not only reproduce flavor, but the chemistry of cooking. Food is more than a collection of flavors and interchangeable nutrients. Some ingredients are indispensable.
In his culinary polemic, “In Defense of Food,” critic Michael Pollan argues that the impact of food and eating goes beyond its component nutrients. With a nod to Wendell Berry, Pollan declares.
When you’re cooking with food [that is] alive — gorgeous and semigorgeous fruits and leaves and flesh — you’re in no danger of mistaking it for a commodity, or a fuel, or a collection of chemical nutrients. No, in the eye of the cook or the gardener … this food reveals itself for what it is: no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on each other, and all of them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight…. What would happen if we were to start thinking about food as less of a thing and more of a relationship?”― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
Food is more than the sum of its nutrients. There are ingredients that cannot be substituted. One of those is hospitality. This is equally true of Christian community. Life in the body of Christ is not the product of a list of spiritual nutrients: disciplines, programs, services, and activities. It flows from living life together, from opening up lives and homes to one another. Praying “Our father” and living “in Christ” professes koinonia, collective life. Hospitality cannot be substituted with stevia or almond flour.
Rosaria Butterfield makes this point decisively in The Gospel Comes with a House Key. In his review Carl Truman notes.
“One of the hallmarks of the people of God is supposed to be hospitality. But in an age of commuter churches, towns disemboweled by shopping malls, and lives that are overscheduled and full of ceaseless activity, hospitality is something which, like true friendship, is at a premium. [There is a] bold case for putting hospitality back into the essential rhythm of the church’s daily life.… that church is to be a community marked by hospitality.”
The Bible is adamant about hospitality. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 stipulate that a reputation for hospitality is a non-negotiable qualification for elders. Paul and Peter command hospitality as a normative part of Christian life. And the letter to the Hebrews warns us. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) Last, but not least, the little letters of 2nd and 3rd John warn that hospitality is critical to evangelism, both in how we extend it and when we withhold it.
With the Bible’s emphasis on hospitality as an indelible mark of Christian life, it is surprising that 2 John warns us to withhold it at times. As Solomon noted, “for everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Deceptive heresies were being brought into the church by guest preachers. While faithful pastors were being denied opportunities to preach. The very truth of God is at stake. This deception is no mere trifle. It is heresy of the most insidious kind, denying the deity of Christ and the necessity of the cross. It is the preaching of anti-Christ. John exhorts the churches to refuse hospitality to these peddlers of poison — to deny the enemies of Christ any “aid and comfort.”
John warns them, just as our own Constitution warns us that “adhering to Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” is treasonous. How discerning are we? In our exercise of hospitality are we careful not to provide “aid and comfort” to the anti-Christ? Where do we draw the lines? What does this mean for our care for the unbeliever and those hostile to the gospel? Does this conflict with commands elsewhere in Scripture to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us? Join us this week as we examine 2 John and wrestle with the question of when to withhold hospitality for the sake of the gospel?