Review of Steve Wilkins’ book “Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality”

The wise man never considers it demeaning to ask for counsel, but the fool is ashamed to request advice from others and must be forced to do so.—Steve Wilkins

4574_002Steve Wilkin’s Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality is one of the Church’s greatest allies. The author does not equivocate on these two important matters. He is direct in application and uncompromising in his commitment to the Biblical message.

The book is divided into two parts. Chapters one through five focus on cultivating true friendship, as well as learning the characteristics of true friends. He completes chapter five with an analysis of those things which destroy friendships. Chapters six through nine focus on the nature and benefits of hospitality. Rev. Wilkins establishes a thoroughly Biblically saturated understanding of hospitality. The book closes with an encouragement to pursue hospitality as vigorously as any other spiritual virtue; perhaps even with greater fervor than other virtues.

On Friendship

“Friendship requires work,”[1] says Wilkins. It is no easy task to develop lasting friendships. One must be committed to the cause of godliness to pursue friendships. The reality is that friendships presuppose a commitment to community. Unfortunately, some Christian traditions find great nobility in loneliness and solitude. However, the premise of this book is that loneliness is tolerated within a society when a society tolerates sin and covenant breaking.[2] Wilkins writes:

The folly of mankind has never been plainer: encouraging the very selfishness and self-centeredness that destroys true friendship, and then complaining of loneliness.[3]

Loneliness has never been the way of Biblical faith. Christ was alone, but never lonely. The Father provided perfect friendship to the Son. Loneliness is the destruction of civilization. We were created for community; Biblical community. Christians do not love community merely for the sake of community, but Christians love community for the sake of the Church and her Head. This is why God places such great stress on procreation.[4] Procreation is not just children for children’s sake; it is children for the Church’s sake. Children become the foundation of future communities. The Church then serves as the great example of families and communities. Indeed, as Wilkins writes “it is the pattern for all communities in the world.”[5]

Friend and Friendly

The author makes a clear distinction in the book between having friends and being friendly. These are separate categories. Not everyone is our friend, but we ought to be friendly to everyone. It seems that this is at least one of Paul’s intentions when he wrote that we are to have peace with everyone as much as it is possible.

We are called to politeness and civility toward others. We cannot befriend everyone nor should we. Friendships require work and we can only invest so much time in these relationships. Some people will have only two or three friends, while others may have more, but: “It is impossible to have intimate friendships with anyone and everyone.”[6]

How to Find True Friends

Pastor Steve Wilkins suggests three ways to find true friends. The first is that it requires earnest prayer. How often steve_wilkins07have men and women prayed that God would provide true friends? The answer may be very little. This happens because the Church has forgotten that God is concerned about our relationships. He is the ultimate community-builder and within that community He desires that Christians befriend one another for this is the way of the gospel. The gospel calls us to abandon selfishness and embrace death. For true friendship to exist sometimes one must die so another may live. We must be more interested in giving than in receiving.

Secondly, we find friends through Christian fellowship. The fellowship of the saints is the sweetest of all human fellowships. Christian fellowship is the music of the Psalmist who calls us not to walk in the way of sinners, but in the way of the righteous. Christian fellowship is the closest tangible view we will have of the eternal resurrected community of saints.

Thirdly, one must show himself friendly if he is to find a true friend. This is not to say that one type of personality is more prone to find true friendship, though those who are more outgoing may find greater ease and opportunities to find friends, but this does not negate the command that everyone, no matter what kind of personality is obliged to pursue friends. It is a holy pursuit. There is no magic in this process. The Christian must be aware that God designs us for godly relationships, so he must pray earnestly for a friend, he must be thoroughly invested in the labor of the Church in her worship and fellowship, and finally he must show himself to be friendly.

On Hospitality

The Church must stand in contrast to the ways of our present culture. If our culture preaches selfishness the Church must preach sacrifice. Our redemption in Christ Jesus is redemption into a new community; abandoning the way of evil doers and embracing the new life of the righteous. Paul’s words in Romans twelve reflect this idea. We are to be living sacrifices unto God, and consequently we become living sacrifices for others who have been redeemed by God. In Peter’s letter he addresses the fruit of the people of God. In chapter four, Peter adds the fruit of hospitality as a Christian’s joyful exercise.[7] When we consider the context of Peter’s letter, the reader becomes aware that Peter is writing to a persecuted Church. Wilkins adds: “The Worst thing a Christian can do during a persecution is to isolate himself from the rest of the body.”[8] It is in the worst of times when the Christian most needs his community. In the midst of these situations, the faith is tested and if we overcome the test by God’s grace, we will become stronger.

In the Scriptures, God condemns nations for not being hospitable and He praises His covenant people for being hospitable. God is the great host of the nations. Acts tells us that the very place where we should live is determined by God. God chooses our homes, our parents, and our friends. Hospitality is rooted in the grace of God who brought strangers into His own household. Thus we are called to live out our faiths knowing that God has already prepared a banquet in the presence of our enemies.  While the enemies of God feast in unclean sacrifices, we feast in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. By dying for us, He provided feasting for His people. We are to take this example and live a life of hospitality.

But what is hospitality?

Some have a false notion of hospitality. They assume that they have to entertain guests constantly. But the Bible equates hospitality to meeting each other’s needs and serving one another.[9] Hospitality, says Wilkins is “humble and sacrificial, and it imparts blessing and refreshment.”[10] Hospitality is also communion with one another in our homes. When we open our homes we are opening our lives to our guests. Nevertheless, it is important to note that hospitality—like friendship—requires work. Wilkins equates hospitality to Saul’s (later Paul) pursuit to kill Christians. It required time, money, and it was inconvenient. We are to be zealous in the same manner. It will require time. Perhaps it will require more food and it will certainly be an inconvenience to the daily schedule. This reviewer remembers well the days spent in Brazil with the American missionaries. When they returned home there would always be someone looking for a place to eat and sleep. But this is not simply the work of the missionary, it is the work of the Church; a noble calling for the body to love and minister to the needs of others.

The Benefits of Hospitality

Wilkins concludes the book with the benefits to hospitality. There are three main benefits that come with hospitality. First, we learn to care for others. It teaches us to die to ourselves.[11] It is the process of sanctification, according to the author. Secondly, it teaches us to be friendly. Here we see that friendship and hospitality are joined as a single goal. Hospitality teaches us–even forces us– to be friendly and giving. And finally, it teaches generosity. “We are further sanctified when we learn to give of our time, talents, and resources for the benefit of others.”[12]

Hospitality is also a covenantal blessing. By being hospitable we are passing a legacy of hospitality to our own children who are growing up seeing the graciousness of daddy and mommy to others. As they grow and build their own families, hospitality will become a natural part of their Christian joyful duty.

This book is what the Church truly needs in this day. The reader will find great joy and a great challenge in pursuing friendship and hospitality as God commands.

Personal Note

As one who has enjoyed a Lord’s Meal at the Wilkin’s household and who has known Pastor Wilkins since January of 2008, it is a great joy to endorse a book written by a man who lives what he teaches.

[1] Pg. 27.

[2] Pg. 9.

[3] Pg. 10.

[4] Genesis 1:26-28.

[5] Pg. 12.

[6] Pg. 28.

[7] See page 92.

[8] Pg. 92

[9] Pg. 105.

[10] Pg. 105.

[11] See pg. 116.

[12] Pg. 117.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Review of Steve Wilkins’ book “Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality”

  1. Pingback: Trinity Talk Interview with Rev. Steve Wilkins on Friendship and Hospitality « Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

  2. Pingback: The New and Improved Face to Face « Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

  3. Pingback: Joyful Domesticity » Friday March 19, 2010

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