Joan’s neighbor invited Greg and Joan and another couple over for dinner. They live in an affluent suburb of Kansas City, and ever since the neighbors moved in, Greg and Joan have attempted to make small talk but found the new residents rather odd. Perhaps this was a break-through, a chance to see that their first impressions were wrong. Greg asked what they could bring for dinner but was told it would be catered, so they were to bring nothing.
My friend Joan shared with a group of us what happened when they arrived for dinner. The visiting foursome were brought into the kitchen and told to help themselves. On the stove was one covered pot. They were to use the tongs and grab one of the six hotdogs boiling in the pot. Six buns lie on a paper plate, ketchup and mustard were in their squeezable containers, and small bags of potato chips lie nearby. All were given water to drink. That was it: wieners, condiments, buns, chips and water. I’ve been to dinner at Joan’s. She puts her best palate forward when hosting guests. Appetizers are stunning, both in presentation and taste, and meals are feasts. Joan said that she and her husband avoided eye contact with the two couples for fear of bursting into hysterics. They looked for ways to praise the meal but could think of none. I mean, what do you say? “Your caterer really knocked herself out this time.” “Goodness, these must be Nathan’s all-beef wieners. Yum.”
The one-wiener-per-person miserliness was not nearly as objectionable as the conversation which centered around how the hosts had met. When the wife first was introduced to her (now) husband’s mother, the mother commented that she was shocked her son had a girlfriend because she “always thought he was gay.” Joan said the host showed no reaction, assuming this was not the first time he had heard his wife reveal that information. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Joan and Greg are Christians and know that they are to love the unlovely. They realize that they need to be sharing Jesus with their unpleasant friends because very likely, that’s what God planned when the couple moved in next door. Since that night, however, she and her husband have avoided their neighbors. Our guilt-ridden friend questioned if they should reciprocate the dinner invitation in hopes of enlightening their neighbors to what real hospitality looks like. Still, she admitted, the food was the least of their concerns.
What made that woman divulge such private information about her husband in front of strangers? And how do those strangers then respond to such a comment? None of us had answers except that we Christians all live by the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And since this is a literal neighbor, well…ignoring them doesn’t seem to be a viable option. Joan shared that she is praying about the matter, but when we pressed her, she admitted that she is praying that her neighbors move. Although we all know God can’t be pleased with such a petition, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be doing likewise.