I am a self-professed word nerd. I love words – digging into the etymology to find the roots of a word and understand the deeper meaning (if one exists).
The fascinating thing about English is that it is a linguistic amalgam – a hodge-podge collection of derivative locutions: a little Latin, some Greek, touches of German and French and Spanish… a stew of expressions as complex and varied as the people who speak it.
Unfortunately this means that, often times, there are words in other languages that simply do not translate well into English. The classic example is the word “love” as found in the New Testament. Usually it is translated from the Koine Greek word agápē, which conveys a deeper meaning than mere affection. Agápē is a more active word. It refers to preferring others over self in all things, at all times – truly the ultimate definition of Love.
Another wonderful word that has no truly well-fitted English counterpart is the German word Gemütlichkeit. It is a term that refers to the spirit of brotherhood in a community, the ambience of cordiality in a home, the atmosphere of fellowship in a church. If you experience Gemütlichkeit, you feel comfortable, welcome, at ease – a part of the group.
Believe it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about Gemütlichkeit:
“…welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7 (ESV)
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV) (The same sentiment is repeated in Exodus 23:9)
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” – 1 Peter 4:9 (ESV)
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” – Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)
When you get right down to it, we are all sojourners traveling through a strange land. As Christians, this isn’t our ultimate home. We’re just passing through on our way to a far better place.
But while we are here, we are called to love one another. To come together in community. To reach out to others. To help. To serve. To share.
All of which requires we maintain Gemütlichkeit in our communities, whether they be a “traditional” church (whatever that is these days), small group, ministry, home church…
Granted, there will be times when Gemütlichkeit is the farthest thing from our minds. There are days we feel more unwirtlich – inhospitable. Maybe it was a tough day at work (where the office felt more like a gestapo), or the kids were fighting or your spouse was grumpy or your dog messed on the carpet for the umpteenth time this week…
Here is what we – what I – need to always remember: agápē affords no space for self-absorption, in any form. Is it a struggle? Yes. What if I just don’t feel hospitable? Pray for grace and create an atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit anyway.
We all need down time. Time alone with the Lord is absolutely essential. But so is being part of a healthy community of fellow believers. Forget your troubles. Cast your cares. Don’t let emotions and feelings keep you from being with others. Remember we are called to be disciples of Christ – to imitate Him and follow His lead. Christ is God incarnate. And God is love (agápē) (1 John 4:8).
The more we love others – the more we practice creating Gemütlichkeit for others around us – the more we will find amazing comfort and comradery that can only be found in true, heartfelt, “doing life together” community.
Be open. Be joyful. Embrace grace. Love one another. Share. Gather. Rest.