The Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery of the RPCNA meets later this month. In a recent Facebook discussion, I suggested that a certain student of theology would show good judgment by bringing a bag of candy to share at the meeting. Jokes about bribes popped up instantly because the elders will be voting on student theology exams; it was all good fun. Of course, bribery is utterly sinful, but it's a good idea for students to bring a bag of candy to share. Why? Because it's portable hospitality, and 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both say that an elder must be hospitable.
My grandfather, the late Bill Long, and grandmother, Lois, always exhibited warm hospitality in their home. Friends of their five children and twenty-one grandchildren were always welcome, university students lived with them, strangers dumped on their front lawn were welcomed inside, and their table was always full on the Lord's Day after church. Grandma continues the tradition today. Grandpa played basketball, football, and baseball at Purdue University. He served as a pharmacist, as a state legislator, and, for over thirty years, as an elder in the church. He knew a thing or two about people, and he loved them.
I was one of the students privileged to live with my grandparents for a summer in college, and through the school year, I was in their home often. Some of Grandpa's best hours discipling young men came in the evening when he would retire to the basement, turn on whatever sport was in season, scan the newspaper, pharmacy journals, church papers, magazines, and all the while, chat. Somewhere through the discussion, the end-table drawer would slide open and a bag of candy would come out. Like the sports on the television screen, the candy varied with the season. The discussion rolled on, our collective sweet-tooth satisfied - at least until Grandma decided it was time for dessert.
Grandpa always took a bag of candy (or two or three) to presbytery. It was simply hospitality on wheels. Seats around his at the meeting went fast. Believe it or not, he had good relationships in the presbytery. Obviously, the candy didn't make the man popular, the man made the candy popular. He knew and loved people, and he loved to share what he loved. He defined hospitality.
So what about our students of theology today? Well, I've already seen a lot of men come and go in my ten years of pastoral ministry, but I can't remember a single one come and go who shared candy at presbytery. The guys with jelly beans in tow just seem to know people. They understand how God has made people, they understand how relationships work, and the Savior uses them significantly. Students, don't worry; it's no bribe. It's just an extension of your personal godliness exam. If it seems a little corny, stretch yourself. Give it a try. A little hospitality goes a long way at presbytery and in all of life.
Just remember: no off-brand candy (I took that once and was reminded: "your grandfather always brought Brachs!"), nothing with noisy individual wrappers, and nothing sugar-free. Jelly beans and Peanut M&Ms are always safe. See you at presbytery!